Its a dynamic often seen. A young, single mom struggles to raise her children, meets some bad men along the way and their childhood vanishes before her eyes. Such is the premise of Richard Linklaters new film Boyhood.
What makes this movie different from others about growing up is Linklater spent the past 12 years filming, showing the actors actually growing up. Granted reality differs from the film, but the feat is not often seen. That aspect alone is impressive.
Viewers will appreciate the flashback through time, featuring hits such as Britney Spears Oops! I Did It Again and the video game Oregon Trail played on an old Mac. Understated, Boyhood makes a great impact. There are no dramatic plot twists, no fancy cinematic feats, no special effects. In an early scene Ethan Hawke, who plays the absentee father, expresses his appreciation for a song he describes as nothing fancy. This is the theme of the film, its in the simplicity that Boyhood finds its charm.
Keeping with the theme, the movie starts with Mason (Ellar Coltrane) at age 5, his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, yes the directors daughter) and their mom (Patricia Arquette) making the decision to move to Houston so she can go to school and make a better life for them.
She remarries, gets divorced after her husband becomes an abusive drunk and moves to another Texas town. The cycle repeats and the kids keep growing. There are moments of deep thought, moments of dramatic irony (father and son debate the possibility of a new Star Wars film in the mid-2000s) and moments of heartbreak.
As Mason ages, he begins to question life, societys reliance on social media and what the point is to everything. This again presented in a seemingly understated way and without the typical movie drama.
The characters explore how to deal with situations as they arise, and in doing so its easy for viewers to identify bits of themselves as Mason and Sam navigate life. The culmination is touching, albeit a little too long. Its impressive that 12 years can be condensed into 160 minutes, but the films style inherently leads to some slow moments without much pushing them forward. Perhaps its a comment on life, often slow to change when we most want it to. Boyhood concludes with a simple discovery maybe the point in life is to find happiness in individual moments and let them wash over you.
Boyhood opens July 25.