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“Boyhood” Film Review

Also known as “Your Childhood: The Movie.”

Richard Linklater, director of “School of Rock,” “Dazed and Confused” and the “Before Sunrise” trilogy, brings us a directorial feat never done for a feature film.


Boyhood” tracks a boy, Mason, from age five to 18, focusing on his family drama and ending with his eventual acceptance into college.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Normally, I would try to compare “Boyhood” to another film to give some context, but this isn’t possible. “Boyhood” is in a genre of its own. It was shot over the course of 12 years, with all of the cast and crew coming together once a year to shoot a few short films highlighting the most important events of Mason’s life. Linklater then spliced the short films into chronological order to give the audience an amazing, in-depth, realistic view of childhood.

Mason is played by Ellar Coltrane, whose actual childhood was used as the basis of the events of the film. Ethan Hawke plays Mason’s biological father perfectly, dropping some ever-important life tips along the way. Patricia Arquette plays Mason’s deeply troubled mother.

Watching the film was especially strange for me, as I am the same age as Mason is supposed to be in the film. So every 90s kid reference, every historical event and even the time-appropriate music gave me flashbacks to my own childhood.

For this tremendous accomplishment, I have to mention how amazing Richard Linklater is. This style of film has certainly never been done before, and I don’t know why. We don’t really realize how fascinating the process of growing up is until we look back and actually try to remember it, and this film creates that opportunity.

Linklater also expertly captured pop culture of the last 12 years, whether it be “Star Wars,” GameBoy, XBOX, Wii, Ask 20 games, cheesy bowling animations or the Ripstick.

By the time the film was over and Mason turned 18 and went to college, I had trouble remembering Mason as a five-year-old boy in the film. I had this moment where I thought, “Wow, come to think of it, I don’t really remember my early childhood very much at all.” I remember certain events and conversations, but I don’t remember who I actually was or what my thought process was like.

Now, the family drama is quite extreme at times in this film, which is forgivable, as it makes the film more entertaining and creates more dramatic action. Most middle-class kids probably didn’t have as horrible a family life as Mason did, but we all certainly can identify with the themes portrayed in the film.

Now here is a warning: “Boyhood” is highly political. As the film follows trends in music, video games and hairstyles, it also follows political trends. Mason seems to be impartial to politics, but his parents and guardians certainly are not.


The film is long for a feature film, at about three hours. It is a tough marathon, but a necessary one. Linklater probably wanted the audience to feel somewhat exhausted at the end, emphasizing the seemingly endless, but ultimately short, phase of childhood.

After making a splash at the Sundance Film Festival, “Boyhood” has gathered immense critical acclaim. IFC Entertainment is strongly promoting the film, and it seems, to my approval, that “Boyhood” will be joining “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in the group of wide-released films contending for Best Picture. “Boyhood” is already No. 48 on IMDb‘s top 250 highest rated films of all time, and it certainly has the love of every teenage boy who has seen it.

“Boyhood” is playing now at the Lyric Cinema Café.

Collegian A&E Writer Morgan Smith can be reached at or on Twitter @MDSFilms.

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