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Boyhood/Rated R for language, drinking, smoking, sex, violence and family dysfunction.

Boyhood is an Oscar contender that opened and then disappeared – in mid-August of last year, to be exact. However, the movie just won the Golden Globe Award for Best Film Drama. People are starting to notice, and Oscars may be in the near future.

Boyhood is a coming-of-age story about Mason – played by Ellar Coltrane – a young boy growing up among dysfunctional adults in Texas, starting at the age of six and ending with his 18 birthday. The film was shot in 45 days, but not consecutive ones, between May 2002 and August 2013. This was deliberate – not due to a massive and recurring sick out. The film’s producers wanted to show the same person as he changes through the 11-year storyline.

Does it sound like a gimmick? Yes. Does it work? Yes and no. At first, I thought this was an actual documentary about a kid growing up. It’s not.


The story moves from year to year, without clearly identifying what period we’re in. Historical events on screen provide clues, but to make the progression and storyline seamless, the characters’ make-up sometimes makes them look older and sometimes younger. Watching young EC is interesting, though, because the little kid becomes a young man right before our very eyes.

Mason goes through the predictable trials and tribulations of a kid growing up in Texas. His mother is played by Patricia Arquette and his father by Ethan Hawke, both of whom gain weight and lose hair over the 11-year shooting schedule.

This is a remarkable film, and one that had many unique challenges – including the fact that U.S. contracts aren’t legally binding for more than seven years. This presented potential problems in finishing the film if any of the cast dropped out, were injured or died. In fact, director and writer Richard Linklater went so far as to get an agreement in advance that if he died, Hawke would finish directing the film. Audiences lucked out. Nothing untimely happened and the film was finished.

Boyhood’s only flaw is that its plot is largely soap opera about family dysfunction – alcoholism, domestic violence, teen sex, lackluster academic performance – culminating in an eleventh hour miracle for Mason (or so it seems). Most of the adults aren’t admirable or even likable. The film also runs two hours and 40 minutes. That’s a long time to sit through scenes reminiscent of Intervention and Jerry Springer. Still, I recommend this film if only for its audacity to try something completely different.

Rated 3.5 out of 4.0 reasons to appreciate how devoted, and lucky, everyone involved in the project was.


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