Film Review: Boyhood

Boyhood starring Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette is out nationwide in cinemas now.
Boyhood starring Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette is out nationwide in cinemas now.

It was always going to happen one day. A film maker would take a concept and instead of filming it over weeks, would film it over years, using the same cast. We have already seen a similar concept in such series as Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight, however these were sequels following sequels and the actors had the right to withdraw at any time the contract was up for negotiation. The fact that Boyhood comprises its twelve year plot into one film with the same cast, complete with child actors who grow literally before your very eyes over three hours is nothing short of an amazing feat, making those three hours seem like most peoples childhood – over in the blink of an eye.

Boyhood centres on Mason Junior (Ellar Coltrane), who lives with his Mum (Patricia Arquette) and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). As expected the plot is about him growing up with various side plots along the way that we gain glimpses of as time takes its inevitable path. Perhaps more interesting to try and spot throughout the movie are the cultural references of that particular day that are dropped in such as the war in Iraq, the anti-Bush sentiment, Britney Spears, Obama’s election and so on, along with other timeless props such as MP3 players, televisions that aren’t flat screen, Xbox (yes the original). This is a movie of every time it steps into and achieves this feat simply having film a few scenes each year and let time take it’s course.

Mason Junior reminds me of some people I used to go to school with. A closed book, who is wary of many people. Given his Mother’s taste in men it is hardly surprising with a catalogue of husbands who turn out to be drunks littering the male influences in Mason’s life outside of the infrequent relationship he shares with his Father. The beauty of this film is that whilst we see many of Mason’s rites of passage and development, having only used one cast there is no jarring effect of changing child actors. You see the actors literally grow up on screen – amazing for us, but possibly pretty amazing yet scary for the young cast within the film.

Aside from Mason’s wary character other characters litter the film demonstrating the lack of permanence people have in our own lives. The only constants throughout being his sister, Mother, Father (Ethan Hawke) and Grandmother (Libby Villari). In this respect there are three reasonably developed characters to go alongside the extensive development of Mason. This also means there are also a fair share of two-dimensional characters such as the husbands that come and go. In many ways this is unsatisfying as so many questions about the fate of these characters and their siblings are left unanswered, but in turn allows the film maker to perfectly capture real life, where with people we leave behind for whatever reason we rarely find out what happens next.

With an innovative concept and solid plot, this is the shortest three hour film I have been to, only looking at my watch once – and that was five minutes before the end. The film takes you through boyhood, reaching a satisfying yet unanswered conclusion, leaving you truly at the end of Mason’s boyhood – capturing both Mason’s desire to move on, and his Mother’s woe at the boyhood’s end, thinking mistakenly, that this means the only thing she has to look forward to next is her funeral – as Mason says she skips ahead about forty years. However innovative this concept was, I doubt ‘Manhood’ is an inevitable sequel for 2054, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a similar concept was used to produce a variation perhaps ‘girlhood’ in the next ten years.

Given the glut of summer releases that always time themselves precisely for the school holidays (Apes, Hercules, Guardians of the Galaxy and so on), I suspect that this maybe only around for another week or so. It has only gone into cinemas more generally this week after a soft release and some brilliant national reviews on 11th July. The advice is – if this film takes your fancy, go see it as soon as you can, or you’ll be waiting for the DVD at Christmas.

Nutleyone rating: 9/10

Boyhood is currently showing at cinemas nationwide and has been given a 15 rating for strong language, sexual references and drug use.