‘Boyhood’: Linklater’s ethereal portrait of childhood

“Can’t believe they’re so big,” says Mason Sr., the fictitious father in Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated coming-of-age film, “Boyhood.”

But with some movie magic, we watch as a real boy and girl age. Twelve years go by in 165 minutes. And we’re left with a time capsule circa 2002 to 2014.

The stars are Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelai Linklater). We watch as they trade Oregon Trail for Nintendos and Harry Potter for Wiis. Music serves as cultural bookmarks, allowing us to place the year. Samantha antagonizes her younger brother in their bedroom with her a cappella version of Britney Spears’ “Oops… I Did It Again.” Years later, the siblings share a game of pool with their romantic partners over Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know.”

Even as “Boyhood” invokes our feelings of nostalgia, the film deals with some pretty tough stuff — especially for kids.

Mason and Sam are forced to pack up and move after their mother and father split. Mason worries that his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), won’t be able find him after they move. His mother, Olivia (Patrica Arquette), reassures him.

These poignant moments make up much of the film. Mason asks his father if elves exist. Mason Sr. responds that elves don’t really exist, but magic does.

That’s what “Boyhood” is. Magical.

The passage of time is seamless, but the portraits keep changing. Facial hair spurts and voices crack. Wrinkles emerge and laughter lines become more prominent.

Linklater takes you on a journey, using Coltrane as his vehicle. One minute he’s catching butterflies with his dad. The next, he’s graduating high school and driving alone to college. Figures move in and out of focus and you realize that your childhood heroes are just as confused as you are. As Sam and Mason age, their parents grow up along with them.

“Boyhood” isn’t everyone’s story, but it’s universal enough. There’s bullying, peer pressure, alcohol and breakup as well as divorce, domestic violence, aging and and self-realization. Linklater delves into our psyche, echoing our fears as we ponder the meaning of life.

Meanwhile, nothing and everything happens at once.

“Boyhood” was written and directed by Richard Linklater and filmed over the course of 12 consecutive years. “Boyhood” was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture. “Boyhood” won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Motion Picture. 

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2 thoughts on “‘Boyhood’: Linklater’s ethereal portrait of childhood

  1. Pingback: My month in movies theatres | Pass the Popcorn

  2. Pingback: ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya': the tale of girlhood | Pass the Popcorn

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