I consider Richard Linklater to be one of my favorite directors of all time. His easy-going pace, his unique form of storytelling, and instantly relatable dialogue and characters connect with me in a way no other director’s films have, through his masterpieces such as Dazed and Confused and the Jesse and Celine Trilogy, and even through his other, still excellent works such as Slacker, Bernie, and even School of Rock. However, the sheer unprecedented concept of Boyhood (filmed over the course of 12 years, using the same actors to film a piece of this epic saga every year), gave me lofty expectations as I walked into the theater. And I walked out with a new experience in my life, a cinematic journey like no other that not only transcended my expectations, but also solidified itself within moments of the credits rolling as the best film of the 21st century.
And I do not use that high praise lightly. Boyhood is an unparalleled cinematic journey full of epic scope, awe, and wonder and yet, it holds life under a microscopic lens, capturing the intimate moments with profound realism and sincerity that elevate this saga to a whole new form of storytelling. Anybody who lived through the time period this film takes place in (which should be everyone watching the film or reading this review) will not only connect to the hilarious, genius cultural references sprinkled throughout the film, but also to how these people act. They just feel real. There’s a piece of your friends in them. There’s a piece of your neighbors in them. There’s a piece of your family in them. There’s a piece of you in them. And with that, Linklater has created the masterpiece for our time, a reflection of humanity as a whole, told in the simplest terms: as a young boy grows into a young man.
The cast here is superb, with the forefront of it featuring Ellar Coltrane as Mason, the young boy who we meet at age 6 and follow until he goes off to college. Ellar’s performance starts out as adorable and peaks as he becomes a nuanced, philosophical young man capable of captivating us simply because we watched him grow up on screen. For the three hours Boyhood nearly runs, you feel like a member of Mason’s family, feeling so proud as we watch him grow up and make it through the important milestones of life. Supporting Mason as he grows up includes an estranged father figure, played beautifully by Ethan Hawke, a frequent collaborator with Linklater, an older sister, played by Linklater’s real life daughter, Lorelei, and the standout, Patricia Arquette, as Mason’s mother. Arquette captures the true emotion of her connection to her son beautifully and her journey is often a painful one, but also something quite magical. By the end, you truly feel emotionally connected to her character, and in her final scenes on screen, you’ll be left breathless by how much she’s tugged at your heartstrings.
All in all, Boyhood is a beautiful, epic, intimate, incredible piece of filmmaking unlike anything else ever made. Richard Linklater is the auteur of our generation, and this has finally solidified it. He’s made some of the most beautiful films of the last decade, but finally, he’s made one of the most beautiful films of all time, a beautiful testament to youth and life and growing up. Boyhood is seriously that good. Believe the hype.