6-year-old Mason lives with his divorced mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), and 9-year-old sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), in Texas. His father (Ethan Hawke), an aspiring musician, shows up on occasion. As Mason grows into a teenager, many changes and events happen including a new home, an alcoholic stepfather (Marco Perella), and his first girlfriend, April (Jessie Tilton).
Writer/director Richard Linklater follows Mason over a 12-year span from the age of 6 until he goes off the college at the age of 18. For the first time in American film history, Linklater filmed the actors year after year for 12 years instead of using other actors or prosthetics/make-up/CGI as the characters age. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what makes Boyhood so extraordinary. Linklater infuses so much naturalism within his film that every single scene rings true, and every small detail becomes an essential part of the tapestry of Mason and his family as a whole. Are you expecting big Hollywood moments like car accidents, fist or gunfights that send someone to the hospital or, perhaps, flashbacks to key scenes to connect the dots thematically for you? If that's the case, our culture/society has probably conditioned you to respond in that way much like Pavlov's dog was conditioned in the classic experiment which Boyhood refers to in yet another small, but profound scene. Linklater gives you the task of connecting the dots and deciding how much weight each moment should be given and how it affects Mason; a Hollywood director would've spoon-fed you everything. After all, growing up can be a roller coaster ride of, among other things, angst, happiness, sadness, confusion as well as a sense of hope, and Linklater captures all of that more palpably and authentically than any American film director has captured before. To summarize the plot doesn't really do it any justice because, just like life, it's simply complex.
Yes, Boyhood clocks at 165 minutes, but you know you're watching a truly great film because you don't feel the weight of its running time and you never want it to end. Every scene feels genuinely poignant and, at least to a certain degree, relatable. The acting all across the board is very natural, and, unlike most American films that fall apart by the end credits, Boyhood boasts a strong beginning, middle and end. Moreover, within all of the moments of gravitas, Linklater infuses the film with just the right amount of comic relief without any sense of unevenness that would've taken away from the film's momentum. For 165 minutes, you'll join Mason along for his emotional journey through adolescence, and laugh when he laughs, feel happy when he's happy, sad when he's sad, and proud of his achievements. He's the kind of character that you'll still be thinking about for years to come. If you were to watch Boyhood again 10 years down the road, you might perceive new layers of insight within its complexity. Ultimately, it's one of the most profound and human American films in years and, if it does well enough in theaters, it could crack the ice to begin a new Golden Age of American Cinema. Why can't Hollywood make films like this anymore? Now critics need only worry about their other 9 Best Films of the Year.
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