Boyhood–Movie Review

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4.5 Stars
Boyhood posterAs with most films by Richard Linklater, I found Boyhood (IMDB) fascinating, but it probably won’t be to everyone’s taste. If you liked his Before Sunrise series (IMDB) then you’ll probably like this too. If you hated it you’ll probably hate this even more.

The movie, about a boy (Ellar Coltrane) growing up, looks like a documentary but it is actually a work of fiction. The unique thing is that it was filmed over a 12-year period, allowing the characters to age naturally.

The thing that struck me most was how Linklater was able to get terrific performances from the child actors. The usual Hollywood practice is to cast teenagers as pre-teens (and not to expect too much from them) and to use twenty-somethings to play teenagers. Ellar Coltrane started out as a 7 year old actor playing a six-year-old, and his performance feels dead-solid perfect.

This is basically a slice-of-life movie. A few scenes are dramatic. Some feel ironic. Most just seem rather ordinary. A boy grows up and some things happen, but nothing particularly extraordinary. As usual Linklater manages to work in some home-spun philosophizing about what it takes to live a good life but he doesn’t give any definite answers.

Parents may be concerned about the way the movie depicts drugs and alcohol. We do see some bad consequences when adults abuse alcohol, but on the other hand we see teenagers drinking and experimenting with drugs and even driving…and nothing in particular happens as a result. Usually when a movie shows such things it attaches some sort of message. The only message here seems to be “these things happen…and most of the time nobody dies.” Maybe that’s not unreasonable, but you should think about whether it is a message you want your children to see.

Other than that I don’t see anything problematic for children age 10 or up, but it’s probably a bit much for younger children.

The movie runs 2¾ hours, which felt a bit long. Nevertheless I’m glad I got to see it.