Filmed in just 39 days, over 12 years, Richard Linklater's Boyhood tells the story of a fictional family through the eyes of a young boy named Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane).
Filming for Boyhood began when Coltrane was just six years old and ended by the time he turned 18. Because of this, it's is an exceptionally unique observation of adolescence and the stresses and strains that we face growing up.
With nearly three hours of screen time, many people have complained of the length of the film. In my opinion, this is totally justified considering it took over a decade to accumulate the footage. It is especially warranted in how the film illustrates the span of time. If it were too rushed it would lose its authenticity.
For Mason, we are shown his transition from kindergarten, to his first love, to his first job, to his graduation. We are shown how his relationship with his sister evolves over the years and how he responds to his parents' ever-turbulent relationship.
For his mother (played by Patricia Arquette) we are shown her struggle with single parenthood, the collapse of her marriages and the tensions she experiences within her career. We are shown how she copes with balancing her own life, verses that of her children's. There's one specific scene in the film where she is saying goodbye to Mason for the final time before he leaves home for university. It's a particularly poignant scene that demonstrates a mother's pain and fear as she realises her life too, is about to change forever.
What Boyhood does especially well is highlight defining events that took place during the twelve years of filming. From September Eleventh, to introducing the first iPod, to Obama's election and Lady Gaga's first music video; we are shown the trends in fashion and cultural events. The soundtrack for the film also reflects the times well; it opens with Coldplay's 'Yellow' and closes with Arcade Fire's 'Deep Blue.' In many ways, the film is like a catalogue of time.
Reviews have also stated that Coltrane's portrayal of Mason was 'boring' and 'moody', however I tend to disagree. I think the choice to play him this way was a brilliant approach; it shows the struggles of growing up in a dysfunctional family and how perceptive children can be to the dramas around them. Sometimes seeing the world through a child's eyes is most accurate of all. Everyone knows that your teenage years are confusing and overwhelming; it would have been wrong to portray it as anything but these things.
You would be wrong to see this film for entertainment value. Instead, view it as a documentation of the transition into adulthood. Being able to watch the entire cast evolve over the years is really quite special.
Most moving of all, Boyhood is a wonderful portrayal of how quickly life passes before your eyes.