Richard Linklater has got some patience. To start making a film, knowing it isn’t going to see the light of day for over a decade, not be really sure how it’s going to pan out or what stories might emerge – and then to be able to persuade his cast to take the same leap of faith, is a remarkable feat. Filmed for a few days a year over 12 years, it was a big risk for all involved. But it’s paid off: Boyhood is one of those films that changes your perception of film-making and reminds you how amazing it can be to step into the darkness with someone else’s vision.
It’s a simple tale: we follow Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his family as they adjust to life after divorce, dipping into their world for a few days each year. Mason goes through gawky, spotty and all the awkward stages of puberty. His sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) goes from show-off child to sulky teen. Mason’s mother Olivia, Patricia Arquette at her best, struggles to find a real purpose in life while giving her children a stable home, and Ethan Hawke is the slacker father who flits in and out of his children’s lives when it suits him, and who has plenty of maturing to do himself. It’s often hard to see the joins as the years pass, but you always feel them.
Boyhood is, of course, all about the boy. But in its portrayal of family life, it’s much more than that. It’s about how we continue to grow up throughout our lives. It’s about the things that drive us, the things that move us and the things we fear. And it’s about how those things never really leave us, we just learn how to use them to our advantage, and how to be happy despite them.
Linkater has created a seamless record of the journey into adulthood. It’s a bit like looking through a family photo album containing all the disjointed memories you have of growing up – the good ones, the bad ones and some of the ugly ones too. There’s something magical about the way Linklater has so tenderly captured this sense of slowly fading memories.
Boyhood is about all our lives, and in its simplicity and brevity it really is quite wonderful.