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Boyhood Film Review

Updated on June 25, 2020

Boyhood (2014) review

One of my favorite film genres is coming-of-age films, and this was definitely the ultimate entry in the genre. I found everything about it to be simply brilliant, mainly because it is so brilliantly simple. The plot itself was not anything super unique or original, but the method used to make this movie and the way the script stayed true to real life without pulling any of the punches you would normally expect along the way made this movie truly something special. I could see where some might find this movie a tad boring and uneventful, but I enjoyed every minute of it. This is the type of movie I am going to rewatch once every couple years, an instant classic in my book.

Boyhood (2014) was written and directed by Richard Linklater. It stars Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. The film follows a boy named Mason Evans Jr (Coltrane) growing up in Texas. He lives with his single mother Olivia (Arquette) and his older sister Samantha (Linklater). Their father Mason Sr (Hawke) has weekend visitation. The movie follows their lives, from the time Mason is 6 until he graduates high school. It deals with how people change over the years, and how people adapt to that change. It’s a movie about growing up and learning how to deal with the trials of life, and how to navigate through it with the help of the people that care about you. It is a film about life, love and family and it is a must see for everyone in my opinion.

The way this film was developed and shot is very interesting and unique. The filmmaker Richard Linklater set out to make a movie about a mother-son relationship that starts when the child is young and goes all the way to high school graduation, but the challenge was that actors change over the years and it is impossible to cover that much ground. So he took a chance on a long term project - he would film for a couple weeks annually with the same cast over a twelve year period so he could truly capture the aging process. He also developed the script along the way, writing the pages between shooting and allowing the actors to contribute to their characters based on their own personal changes in their lives. Linklater even used his own daughter to play the main character's sister.

The outcome is truly incredible in my opinion. The story is very simple, but that was exactly what it needed to be. All the acting was superb, but the stand out performances for me were Arquette and Hawke. Arquette is a very skilled actress and she really shined as Mason’s mother. She didn’t always make the best choices in her life, but she always had unconditional love for her children and was a very dependable strong mother figure. She also had a vulnerability that made her that much more charming and real. Hawke’s portrayal of the father was a treat as well, the polar opposite of the mother. He was more relatable to his kids than their mom was, and he was always quick to offer fatherly advice. Even though he was absent in the early stages of his kids' lives, he really stepped up and tried really hard to make up for it over the years and to me he ended up being a pretty incredible father.

I would recommend this movie to anyone that doesn’t need a whole bunch of action or constant plot twists. This is a movie you can just sit back and enjoy without having to think too much. Be prepared for the long haul though, this movie clocks in at two hours and forty-five minutes.

Cast trivia

  • Patricia Arquette won an Academy Award in 2015 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Boyhood.
  • Ellar Coltrane, who plays the boy of the title, was 7 years old when the movie started filming and 19 when it finished.
  • Lorelei Linklater is only 3 months older than her on-screen brother Ellar Coltrane. Richard Linklater jokes that he didn't so much cast her in the movie, as given in when she insisted on playing the part after hearing about the project.
  • David Blackwell played Liquor Store Clerk in Linklater's film Dazed and Confused, and again here in Boyhood.
  • The guitar playing street performer is Ellar Coltrane's real father, Bruce Salmon. He is a musician based in Austin, TX where his cameo is set.
  • Patricia Arquette filmed Medium during the entire span of this film.
  • Although Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke's characters are billed as "mom" and "dad", their characters real names are revealed to be "Olivia" and "Mason Sr." in the film. In real life, Arquette's mother was also named "Olivia".
  • According to Patricia Arquette, Richard Linklater asked her not to have any plastic surgeries, since it wouldn't make sense for her character.
  • None of the actors were contractually obligated to return to the film each year due to the De Havilland Law under California Labor Code, which makes it illegal to contract employees for more than seven years of work.
  • Linklater has said that due to the fact that Arquette had been a mom at a very young age, she was the only actress he ever thought of for the part of Olivia.

Production trivia

  • Boyhood had a budget of 4 million dollars and had a worldwide gross of 48.1 million dollars.
  • This film was produced by IFC productions and distributed by IFC films. It was released on August 15, 2014.
  • This film was shot in Texas, USA.
  • The film was shot over 45 days from May 2002 to August 2013 which, roughly speaking, is spanning more than 4000 days.
  • The film began production as "The Untitled 12 Year Project" and then became just "12 Years". However when the film was finished, Richard Linklater changed the title to Boyhood, to avoid confusion with the similarly titled 12 Years A Slave.
  • The baseball game that Dad brings Mason and Samantha to is a combination of two different Brewers / Astros games filmed 8 months apart. The footage of Roger Clemens is from a game held on August 18, 2005. The game that the characters actually attended was filmed on April 17, 2006. At this game, Jason Lane actually did hit a home run precisely where the camera was pointing.
  • Mason's full name, as seen on his engraved Bible, is Mason Evans, Jr.
  • Mason Sr.'s roommate Jimmy is played by Charlie Sexton, a real-life musician who toured with Bob Dylan for many years.
  • The film takes place from 2002 to 2013.
  • There are 143 scenes in the film.
  • This was President Barack Obama's favorite film of 2014. Coincidentally, Obama's first presidential campaign is explicitly referenced during the 2008 portion of the film.
  • Christopher Nolan revealed this film was his favorite of 2014, despite himself directing Interstellar the same year.
  • The precise time frame of the movie is never made completely clear. The constantly changing time setting can only be identified by pop-culture references, the soundtrack (which has no original score), and advances in technology used by the characters.


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