Best of 2014 Movie Review: Boyhood

Chronicling the life of a young boy over a long yet breathtaking twelve years, through the eyes of the boy, his family, and his friends, Boyhood invites you into this boy's childhood, and doesn't release you until every last blossoming experience is shared with you. Through one of the most dedicated directions I've ever seen, with director Richard Linklater spending 12 years of his life filming this cast, this film is more than just a film, it's real life as it was meant to be filmed. With breakout star Ellar Coltrane leading this emotional and complex cast of interesting characters, Boyhood redefines what any great amount of dedication can do when set to screen, diving into the joys and hardships of this loving family.  

Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) was always a kid with never-ending dreams, aspiring to go wherever life took him. From age six, Mason and his older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), live a simple yet complicated life, with their single mother (Patricia Arquette). With a lazy father (Ethan Hawke) wanting to get involved in raising them after a trip to clear his mind, the two children grow up in a rather conflicted household. By age eight, Mason's mother is dealing with her own problems of a new abusive husband and bills continuing to pile up, affecting the family greatly and changing Mason's outlook on life. Throughout the rest of his life, until he leaves for college, Mason tackles obstacles from peer pressure to girl troubles, as he learns how to survive in this crazy world. Telling the phenomenal tale of this boy and his journey into adulthood, through thick and thin, Boyhood holds the deepest heart and emotion of any film out there.

Boyhood to me, like to many others, was a delightful surprise hidden under a rock of obscurity. Dominating the theaters of film festivals since the summer of last year, Boyhood didn't reach my lap until it was already engulfed in critical acclaim. Released in late summer of 2014 in the U.S., Boyhood somehow evaded my attention until I heard how amazingly memorable it was, and how it was up for a number of big-league awards. Finally seeing it this month, with the help of a little thing called Redbox, I was left astonished at what director Richard Linklater produced with this long, grueling project. I don't know how I waited this long to see this film, because in the end it was probably one of the best films of the year. Telling such a wonderful, not-at-all generic coming-of-age story of this capacity, Boyhood was an unforgettable experience. 

Coming-of-age stories have been told since the dawn of melodramatic entertainment. From literature to cinema, the stories of how children blossom into adults have captivated audiences for years. While they're not all melodramatic, some do go the extra mile to exaggerate the themes presented before the growing protagonist. On the subject of Boyhood, while some amounts of peer pressure and marital violence may be somewhat exaggerated a bit, the film still remains to be a whole-hearted tale of a boy becoming a man. With that, Boyhood is one of the few coming-of-age stories that has really grabbed my attention and not let go. With the sensational concept of filming one family of actors for nearly 12 years, this film takes the coming-of-age tale to the next level, showing the real-life maturity of one amazing boy. Through many challenges, this boy both stumbles and triumphs as he faces a deeply emotional life full of tragedy and surprises.

The cast of the film was nothing special acting wise, the best being the ill-fated mother played by Golden Globe winner Patricia Arquette, but it still held great importance as this small group of people stayed together as a family for almost 12 years. Leading the cast is breakout star Ellar Coltrane, a cute kid that turned into a methodical teen bent on deciphering the real world as he wanted. Instantly captivating me as his child self ponders the ideals of his mother's love life and how things work in the world, Coltrane's early commitment to this project assured me that he wasn't going to let this role go to waste. As each maturing scene swept by, each with its own defining experience for Coltrane's Mason to learn from, Coltrane developed into one of the most dedicated breakout stars I've ever seen, owning his role like it wasn't even a role, like it was his real life. While he may not have been the best actor, his only career consisting of this monumental film and a few small others, Ellar Coltrane gave it his best as Richard Linklater's cinema experiment documented nearly Coltrane's whole adolescent life.

As for the rest of the cast, of course Arquette owns the role of a conflicted mother struggling to raise two children, ultimately deserving her Golden Globe win this year. Ethan Hawke doesn't deliver his best work, but is convincing as a lazy father with the task of earning the trust and love of his growing children. His witty dialogue and cheerful musical talents make him a lovable character throughout the film. Richard Linklater's daughter, Lorelei, plays a cheery if not rude sister to Coltrane's Mason, but her performance, unlike that of Coltrane's, unfortunately doesn't get better with age. While bubbly and lovable at first, Lorelei's Samantha becomes somewhat unneeded as she reaches adolescence, her character occasionally drifting away from Mason as they grow up. In the end, the cast may not have been perfect, but the commitment of them to stay together for so long, shows how essential and devoted they were to the project.

The music in the film was also quite essential to the project, as it mixed pop hits from the varying years with underground favorites to keep the story moving along. From famous bands like Coldplay and Arcade Fire to nearly unknown ones like Cat Power and The Hives, Boyhood's indie feel manages to draw in a number of hip, smooth bands to accompany its wholesome tale. One of the most unique songs on this massive playlist, one that captivated fans in the film's trailer, Family of the Year's hit Hero ultimately portrays Boyhood's mellow tone and its inspiring message to everyone facing hardships as they grow up. 

Overall, this film was a great experience that I wished I could have experienced on the big screen. Packed with emotion and depth, as well as amazing character development (at least for the star), this film will stand as one of the crowning achievements done in cinema. Spanning a cultured and special life of a single boy and his family, Boyhood is a long trip worth taking, as audiences witness the growth of a young, aspiring child into a thoughtful, intelligent young man with dreams of flying high. In the end, Boyhood is one of the most devoted films on the year, with a director worthy of numerous awards.

I gave this film a 9 out of 10 for its director's amazing devotion to the project, its unique cast of breakout stars and maturing actors, and its wonderful soundtrack full of songs of love, life, and lessons.

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