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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

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Boyhood
The Wonder Years


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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

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Boyhood
Empire Star Rating

RE: Boyhood

There is some novelty to watching the actors literally age on-screen, but Boyhood's real charm is in taking you back to those seminal moments in your life and experiencing those emotions again. (For most of us, it'll be Mason falling in love with Sheena.) ... More

Posted by Levorlla at 10:42, 19 February 2015 | Report This Post


RE: Boyhood

There are some who have already declared Richard Linklater’s latest film as his masterpiece. Strong words indeed especially since his dedicated fanbase are known for being decidedly low-key followers and not prone to hyperbole. But you know what? On this occasion, they might be right. A lot has already been made of the incredible logistics of filming a story over 12 actual years, retaining the same cast and the challenge of maintaining any kind of continuity, be it the story, its themes or... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 20:46, 11 February 2015 | Report This Post


RE: Oscar Nomination for Best Film? Really? Boredom Award more like

The title and synopsis for Boyhood points towards it being a film about a child turning in to a young adult and the world as seen through his eyes, and it is, but it’s also so much more than that. Richard Linklater has made a film that encapsulates life. We follow Mason’s life as he grows from a 5 year old boy in to a young adult, set and filmed over the course of 12 years. The result is something so effective and so universal and real, that it transcends being a gimmick and becomes a huge... More

Posted by Coyleone at 13:14, 26 January 2015 | Report This Post


RE: Oscar Nomination for Best Film? Really? Boredom Award more like

oodater, 2014):time shifts are never broadcast and no egregious pretensions towards narrative drive are made. The result is a cascading river of life and love that pulls you into its flow and forces you to ask the most important questions...and reminds us to forget the petty ones. ★★★★quote]L: jeditommo..for £9 I want spectacle and something that looks awesome on a big screen...hooting for twelve years is a far greater special effect than o. 3,245 ... More

Posted by max314 at 16:36, 21 January 2015 | Report This Post


RE: Oscar Nomination for Best Film? Really? Boredom Award more like

Oh and its an easy 5 stars by the way, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by taylor1980 at 19:42, 19 January 2015 | Report This Post


RE: Oscar Nomination for Best Film? Really? Boredom Award more like

1 star? Seriously? I'm so angry about your non-point that you made me break my 10 year forum hiatus. ... More

Posted by taylor1980 at 19:39, 19 January 2015 | Report This Post


Oscar Nomination for Best Film? Really? Boredom Award more like

What's all the Hype About? I read it's an Oscar favourite - people are strange. More like a home movie which the family forces you to watch & you have to say nice things. So the guy invited the actors back for 12 years and everyone got older. And? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joannakanga at 15:44, 18 January 2015 | Report This Post


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



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