Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
The Making Of The West Wing
Subscribe To Empire Today
Save money and get 12 issues for only £25
Go Think Big
Helping young people achieve their career dreams
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Ethan Hawke
Patricia Arquette
Ellar Coltrane
Lorelei Linklater.
Directors
Richard Linklater.
Screenwriters
Richard Linklater.
Running Time
163 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Fury
3 Star Empire Rating
Way He Looks, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Serena
2 Star Empire Rating
Book Of Life, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Björk: Biophilia Live
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Boyhood
The Wonder Years


submit to reddit


Plot
Six year-old Mason (Coltrane) lives with his mom (Arquette) and sister Samantha (Linklater) in Texas, Dad (Hawke) having recently left. We follow his and the family’s life over the next 12 years, as boy becomes man.


Review
Boyhood

Back in 2001, having most recently released the 86-minute real-time camcorder drama Tape, Richard Linklater conceived an “impractical idea” that would, in contrast, sporadically absorb him for the next 12 to 13 years: “the story of a parent-child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college”. Unique in scope and potential pitfalls — would he find actors who could commit for so many years? What if his lead child evolved into a sub-par performer? Would he be able to fashion a coherent narrative around such a nebulous notion? — Linklater’s gamble, revisited for a few scenes each year and becoming, in his words, like a “summer camp art project”, is in fact an absolute gem, possibly the director’s masterpiece to date.

Casting long-time collaborator Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his young protagonist’s divorced parents, and his own daughter, Lorelei, as older sister Samantha, the hunt was on for the child who would play Mason from age six to 18, a pretty immense undertaking. Linklater would eventually select first-time actor Ellar Coltrane and, happily, as Mason grows from reserved, whimsical youngster into very much his own man, Coltrane emerges as a true talent, uncannily convincing as Hawke’s son and, by the film’s end, a performer of such languid charisma that he could be Hollywood’s next heartthrob, should that be where his ambitions lie.

Covering 2001 to 2013 — or, in Linklater’s terms, Coldplay to Daft Punk, no title-card spoonfeeding here — we begin with Mason aged six, his (at this point) bohemian slacker dad Mason Sr. just back in town after a commitment-shy escape to Alaska, his mom Olivia struggling to combine single-parenthood with ambitions to self-betterment via a return to college. Mason and Samantha’s concerns are those of every child — school, sibling rivalries, friendships, secret dens, arcane collections, and in this case a vague hope that Mom and Dad will get back together. Their parents, meanwhile, have their own joys and sadnesses, ambitions and worries — while boyhood is the central theme, Linklater (scripting here as well as directing) has as much to say about being a grown-up as being a child. And so life goes on, ebbing and flowing across the years, signposted by changing hairstyles, thickening and thinning waists, new relationships, homes, jobs and schools. There is no plot here in a conventional sense; instead, as Hawke puts it, “timelapse photography of a human being”.

And yet things happen. One of the perhaps unexpected joys of Boyhood for a contemporary Western audience is that it is also timelapse photography of our last decade or so. We glimpse the run-up to Obama’s first election, the arrival of the iPod, and a father-son campfire discussion on possible future Star Wars movies — filmed before that earth-shattering announcement of May 2013. It’s hard to remember that Linklater wasn’t writing these scenes with hindsight, but there’s an extra pleasure in recalling that he didn’t. When it comes to the minutiae of his characters’ lives, meanwhile (an excruciating but very funny parent-child conversation about sex; terrifying brushes with alcoholism; new babies in the ever-expanding family), Linklater again excels at creating believable, appealing people. They’re not perfect, Olivia repeatedly picking men who will let her down, Mason Sr. taking his time to do his own growing up, but they’re all so personable, you want to hang out with them, eating the cheese-on-sticks at Olivia’s laidback, intellectual soirees, or kicking back on the sofa with Mason Sr. and his aging rocker roommate. This is in part down to wonderful writing, but also to a cast — from both kids to Arquette, and a fine ensemble of supporting actors — who convince completely as their characters evolve and mature. If this film had been released in December, Hawke would be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, so engaging is his performance.

But this is above all a Richard Linklater joint. Almost an apotheosis of his films to date, the Texan director has a way of making life seem magical and so much fun, while tinged with melancholy at its disappointments and the inevitable passage of time. Like a greatest hits of Richard, there are echoes of Dazed And Confused as an adolescent Mason and his pals hang out with older kids in a mid-renovation house, chugging beers as they fool around with a chainsaw blade and flim-flam about invented sexual experiences. A few years later, Mason and his girlfriend spend all night walking and talking their way round Austin, two kids confidently, easily in love but, as in Before Sunrise, with so many unexpected twists and turns ahead. Like last year’s Before Midnight, though, this is a more mature, wiser Linklater — and again all the richer for it. A great big hug of a film, you don’t have to have been a boy to relate, just a child; nor do you have to have been a parent — just a person trying to figure it out.


Verdict
Linklater’s beautiful film is an extraordinary achievement — tender, funny, wise and wistful, full of warmth and humanity.


Reviewed by Liz Beardsworth

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Boyhood
Empire Star Rating

wonderful

Hawke really is a great actor. Oddly, I found Mason Jnr increasingly boring the older he became. But I think maybe that's just the way he played it, since he was and is mean to be, a moody teenager. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 22:52, 21 August 2014 | Report This Post


A truly unique experiement

... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MexicanClive at 15:20, 21 July 2014 | Report This Post


A truly unique experiement

It is interesting to see that unlike the near unanimous praise heaped on Boyhood by the critics (99% on metacritic!) the public's response has been far more polarised (as evidenced in these pages). And such a response is perhaps understandable for a near three hour film in which very little of cinematic note actually happens- Linklater is not trying to wow us with bravura camera techniques, plot twists or memorable dialogue. What we are given is little moments of real life – funny, sad, unpleas... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MexicanClive at 15:20, 21 July 2014 | Report This Post


What's all the fuss about ?

I really don't get why this film is getting 5 star reviews. We found it rather dull. Basically nothing happened. 3 hours of the director indulgence. Tedious and boring. Don't believe the hype and don't waste your money. The fact it was filmed with the same actors over a 12 year period was all that it had going for it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by strictmachine at 13:51, 21 July 2014 | Report This Post


Borehood.

Linklater's reliance on the 12-year gimmick has resulted in three hours of self-indulgent navel gazing where the craft clearly seemed more important than the final product. Like sitting politely through someone else's home movies, the novelty wears off when you realise the screenplay is focusing on how trivial 'real' life is compared to the movies. Essentially a fictionalised version of the '7 Up' series, marking the passage of time with a succession of games consoles, Harry Potter books and mo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 00:25, 15 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Boyhood

Saw it last night... It is very good, has a great soundtrack and is worth seeing but... It suffers from a couple of cloying caricatures in the form of two alcoholic step-dads and whether it's realistic or not, the teenage sister is just annoying from the start and Mason Jr as he reaches his mid-late teens just becomes a pretentious slacker that you don't really care all that much for by the end. The previous guy got slated for suggesting it was like one of those TV documentaries that ... More

Posted by losthighway at 13:15, 12 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Boyhood

Last week came the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction, which was a two-and-three-quarter-hour “borefest” as Michael Bay’s latest atrocity was a real reminder of the sickling Hollywood cynicism that is currently happening. The film also continues to disappoint the boyhood of a particular generation who grew up with the toy franchise and its 1980s animated TV incarnation. Speaking of boyhood, Richard Linklater’s most ambitious film to date, and with a running time as long as Transformers,... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 01:57, 12 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

Not so much a bizzare post as an rather depressing one, weather he's trolling or being serious. Been looking forward to this film for a while. ... More

Posted by Davross at 15:23, 09 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

L: odddaze L: jeditommo Another great Empire review of a film so unmissable that no one will go see it. From the review it seems to be more like one of those pointless TV documentaries that my wife watches. But really £9 to watch a film about an average boy growing up in an average way. Nowadays for £9 I want spectacle and something that looks awesome on a big screen rather than something that would look much more at home on a TV screen. od forbid a film captures something natura... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by manufan at 16:53, 08 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

This movie sounds really interesting. Linklater is pretty awesome. ... More

Posted by DONOVAN KURTWOOD at 13:25, 08 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

L: jeditommo Nowadays for £9 I want spectacle his spectacle. ... More

Posted by UTB at 12:41, 08 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

Utterly bizarre response to a review. I don't know whether it's an act of subversive genius, or a depressing display of why studios are spot on churning out the same out crap year after year to the braindead masses. ... More

Posted by amitaggarwal at 12:03, 08 July 2014 | Report This Post


That's the weirdest response to a review I think I've ever read. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 10:08, 07 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Unmissable????

L: jeditommo Another great Empire review of a film so unmissable that no one will go see it. From the review it seems to be more like one of those pointless TV documentaries that my wife watches. But really £9 to watch a film about an average boy growing up in an average way. Nowadays for £9 I want spectacle and something that looks awesome on a big screen rather than something that would look much more at home on a TV screen. od forbid a film captures something natural. Thankfully t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by odddaze at 09:36, 07 July 2014 | Report This Post


Unmissable????

Another great Empire review of a film so unmissable that no one will go see it. From the review it seems to be more like one of those pointless TV documentaries that my wife watches. But really £9 to watch a film about an average boy growing up in an average way. Nowadays for £9 I want spectacle and something that looks awesome on a big screen rather than something that would look much more at home on a TV screen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jeditommo at 09:07, 07 July 2014 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Scariest Film Of The Year? Jennifer Kent On The Babadook
The director talks us through her terrifying new film

10 Horror Spin-Offs We Want To See
After Annabelle, what other supporting characters deserve their own film?

Documentaries: What Happened Next
We track down and interview the stars of great non-fiction films

Movie Poster Mashups: Sean Bean Edition
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be appalled at the punning...

Your Introductory Guide To That DC Movie Slate
Suicide Squad? Cyborg? Aquaman? We explain who’s who in the DC Universe

Captain America 3, Iron Man And Civil War: Where Next For The Marvel Cinematic Universe?
What to make of today's Marvel news

Interactive Gallery: Explore Iconic Movie Spacesuits
Explore the fabric of space-time

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)