Directed By: Richard Linklater

Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke

I'm always in search of bold, refreshing filmmaking that pushes the bounds of what cinema can be.  Rarely, do I actually find it.   On this otherwise ordinary weekend at the movies, I think we've found something special, something extraordinary.  The vast majority of films go into production for several months.  Well, on this weekend, we have a movie that went into production for a whopping total of twelve years.  Between the summer of 2002 and the fall of 2013, Richard Linklater annually shot a series of twelve shorts about a boy growing up.  Working with the same principal cast and crew, he wove these shorts together into a masterful feature film.  In doing so, Linklater has effectively tamed the forces of time and change to give us what can only be called a milestone in moviemaking.  Linklater has given us Boyhood.

Young love can have long-lasting consequences.  Now divorced and raising two children, Mason (Ethan Hawke) and Olivia (Patricia Arquette) know this all too well.  Though their flame of love ran out years ago, their love for their kids Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) never died.  After the divorce, Mason Sr. moved to "Alaska", leaving Olivia to raise their two children on her own.  With just a high school diploma and limited appeal to employers in the labor market, this is a tough thing to do.  Wanting to get a degree and make a better life for herself and her kids, Patricia opts to move her family back to Houston.  The film chronicles Mason Jr.'s life with his mother and sister as they move from place to place and Olivia moves from husband to husband.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood may have done the impossible and captured life in a film roll.  In recent years, we've had Tree of Life.  We've had Cloud Atlas.  We've even had the most recent installment in the Before series.  Never have we had a film quite like Boyhood, however.  The film's massive scope, its superb cast and crew, and its detailed and ever-changing creative process all transform Linklater's ambitious vision into one incredible tale.  It's undoubtedly the consummate coming-of-age film.  We don't just watch a boy become a little wiser after a life lesson that lasts for a couple of hours.  We physically watch Ellar Coltrane's Mason Jr. grow from a boy into a young man.  In childhood and adolescence, we watch him go through the struggles and experiences with which we're all too familiar.  Through the Bush years and the age of Obama, we're not only watching a boy's life unfold, but we’re reliving our own lives vicariously through him and the other characters that age and grow as the movie progresses.

What's truly masterful about Boyhood is its continuity.  Linklater may have had a vision of what he wanted this movie to be back in 2002, but it's impossible for that vision to come to fruition exactly as he planned.  Time marches on.  People change.  The world evolves.  While I'm sure he knew that Harry Potter and Britney Spears's "Oops!... I Did It Again" were calling cards of pop culture in the early 2000s, Linklater couldn't possibly have known how the world would change or how the few people involved with this film would change with it over time.  To create a work this fluid yet so rich in continuity over a span of twelve years is utterly astonishing.  It's a beautiful achievement that required more than a decade of meticulous crafting, which is frankly unfathomable for a work of fiction.

Poignant drama and gut-wrenching humor are two defining attributes of Boyhood, but Linklater's clever narrative is the glue that holds this film together.  While Linklater had to have the consistent participation of his principle cast members year after year, I'm sure pulling all of the supporting players back together annually would prove to be a difficult challenge.  That being said, this narrative of a family moving from patriarch to patriarch and place to place circumvents this problem.  Mason Jr. And Samantha don't grow up in the same neighborhood with the same people over those twelve years.  This constant change in the narrative is what keeps the film fresh and what fosters both its fluidity and continuity.  It's much easier for Linklater to bring back four actors backed by a few new supporting cast members every year rather than bringing back the same fifteen or twenty people each time.  More importantly, this mirrors life in a way as we all have loved ones who are fixtures in our lives as well as those who are only in our lives for a season.

The cast is nothing short of outstanding as we watch each of them grow and struggle through different phases of life.  As our star Mason Jr., Ellar Coltrane is quite impressive.  He grows from an amusing child actor into a soulful young man with a lot of heart.  As his mother Olivia, Patricia Arquette nimbly tackles the struggles of adulthood and aging.  Delivering forceful performances in some of the more dramatic scenes of the film, Arquette commands the screen at will.  As Mason's sister Samantha, Lorelei Linklater gives us a healthy dose of girlhood.  We watch this mischievous, entertaining little girl grow into a strong young woman.  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Ethan Hawke's portrayal of Mason Sr.  A frequent collaborator with Linklater, Hawke once again rises to the occasion by taking his character from an immature, childish loser to a mature man confident in what he wants out of life.

I can't say enough about Boyhood.  In bringing this epic story to the big screen and taking a moving picture of life itself, Richard Linklater truly seizes this moment in cinematic history by letting the moment seize us.  It's a spectacular motion picture that simultaneously turns life into art and art into life.  As Ethan Hawke's Mason Sr. says in the movie, we're all just winging it.  That's exactly what Linklater does here to perfection.  Boyhood gets a sober rating.