I think Boyhood is a movie that is tough to summarize into a few sentences. While you can summarize the plot in a sentence (The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18. according to IMDb), it is a film that is more about your own personal emotions and attachments to the content being presented rather than being something that you can tangibly pick apart.
It is a film that is easy to pick apart because of the number of flaws that it has, but is also a film that gets a very unique out — it was filmed over the course of 12 years. While this has been the tagline that has drawn people into seeing the film, it is also that stands true when looking at this work as a whole because it not only works as a portal into the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) for 12 years, but also into the work of Richard Linklater for the last decade as well.
Boyhood follows Mason as he begins at the age of five and moves to the age of 18 where he leaves for college. Along his way, he has his mom (Patricia Arquette) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater) who create part of his rocky home foundation. He also has his estranged dad (Ethan Hawke) and a host of new step-dads.
The younger years for Mason were probably what struck most with me. Growing up in Texas, the blue skies and daily routines were like traveling back in time and visiting a place I hadn’t in years. One moment, when Mason goes with his dad and sister to a Houston Astros game was surreal for me as they watched Roger Clemens pitch and Mike Lamb hit a home run and I remember that year and that team. Completely out of my mind for the past decade.
But Boyhood works differently than any movie I’ve ever seen before because it has three hours to move from age five to age 18 and has to progress this character along the way. But Linklater doesn’t feel obligated to change Mason from point A to point B, but form a personality.
It is easy to watch a movie and be looking for the overall growth of the character but I found with Boyhood, it was about the overall personality change from a quiet kid looking for some role model to latch onto to an independent teenager who seemed somewhat resentful that he couldn’t get that and was determined to carve his own path. In one scene, Mason sits in the car with his dad at about the age of 16, he talks about getting a car, specifically his dad’s old classic muscle car. But his dad had to sell it to make room for a new mini-van and a new family and doesn’t remember the moment he promised that car to Mason.
In the moment, Mason groans and resents him, but later on it doesn’t matter and I think that’s the majesty of the film. It is the film closest to life and these moments come and go, sometimes seeming important and don’t pan out while others come meaningless and become important.
I think Boyhood will take a few viewings to come full circle. It is a movie that introduces a lot and is almost obscure at first because of the way Linklater pieces it together, but in the end, it is a film of immense importance in the landscape of cinema and one the year’s best.