To experience Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is to have courtside seats to this captivating thing we call life — and to watch up close, a boy become a man. Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, BOYHOOD breaks cinematic ground by following the trial and tribulations of a child named Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane in a breakthrough performance), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes.
Linklater, best known for Dazed and Confused and the Before Sunrise trilogy, started out wanting to capture the private emotions and instrumental experiences of childhood that form who we become as an adult — but wasn’t sure where to begin. Then an idea hit him:
“Why not try to encompass all of it?”
With no real precedent for embarking on such an expansive project, Linklater asked the cast and crew to take a communal leap of faith and commitment. Coltrane, who assumes the titular role of BOY, was six years old when he auditioned. Linklater shares: “I had a feeling Ellar was going to be an artist of some kind even at that age, in part because his parents are both artists but also there was just something unique about him. And I felt the world he was growing up in would lend itself to what we were doing.” Mason’s sister, Lorelei, played by Linklater’s daughter, was an easy role to cast: “She really wanted to do it…and it was a really practical choice because I at least had a little bit of control over her availability.”
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, who play Mason’s father and mother, jumped on board without hesitation when Richard asked them, “What are you doing for the next 12 years?” Both actors, fearless in their portrayals, deliver performances of a lifetime.
Boyhood is neither flashy nor bombastic — it is honest and delicate and weaves reality with fiction so expertly that you sometimes forget it is a work of art. And it is long (with a runtime of 164 minutes). But you indulge the seemingly lagging moments of minutiae because in them you find truth. And that’s what makes BOYHOOD beautiful.
Amy Senger is an L.A. transplant by way of Washington, DC, and co-founder of 1X57, named to Washingtonian’s Tech Titans list with her partner Steven Mandzik. Follow her on twitter @sengseng and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email amy@1×57.com.