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A Cinematic Journey Through Life: 'Boyhood’

by Photo of April Baptiste-Brown

Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ takes us on the rollercoaster ride of adolescence.

A Cinematic Journey Through Life: 'Boyhood’

Although to the surprise of some, Boyhood lost the Academy Award for Best Picture but it did manage to get one win for supporting actress Patricia Arquette. Despite losing some awards, the film gained hearts and minds alike.

We all know a kid who we’ve watched grow up. Whether it be our sibling or child, relative or friend, we’ve all witnessed time pass in the lives of one person or another. This simple fact is the premise of Richard Linklater’s life-spanning drama Boyhood.

Filmed over the course of 12 years, Boyhood follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) throughout the most important years of his life from a young boy to a young adult starting college. Mason lives with his mom (Patricia Arquette), sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and the occasional appearance from his father (Ethan Hawke). Mason learns exactly what it’s like to grow up and we get to witness the entire cast age 12 years in the span of three hours.

Before seeing Boyhood, all I knew was that the movie was shot over 12 years. That’s what everyone kept saying, but it’s how writer/director Richard Linklater went about filming and presenting the change of time that made the movie so unique.

When the movie began, there was no year placed on the screen to tell the audience when the events ensued. But there was music. For example, the movie opened to the song “Yellow” by Coldplay, and moments later, when Mason was rudely awoken by his sister Sam to her own rendition of "Oops!…I Did It Again” by Britney Spears. From these notable tunes we can tell that it’s the early 2000’s (the year 2000 to be specific). Later, when the mother and children move cities for the first time, Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun” can be heard, and when their father comes to see them for the first time in years, at the end of their day together, "Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips drifts from the car radio (now it’s 2002). The movie’s soundtrack is a musical time capsule.

However, music is not the only thing that helps the audience keep time. There are enough big signifiers to help us figure out when things are happening. We know that the year is 2008 when Mason, Sam and their dad go canvassing the neighborhood in support of Barack Obama. 

We see Sam getting annoyed when she’s chastised for not picking Mason up from school when he’s in 8th grade, and we watch as their dad shows up with his new wife and baby. This all shows viewers how the characters have changed within the film.

Yet, the best thing in this movie is that the family changes because the cast stays the same. The whole cast. We see Patricia Arquette as their struggling mother. We watch her strive to give the best life to her kids, go through two failed marriages and still manage to get both her kids into college and secure a collegiate teaching position for herself. We see her hair change, her weight fluctuate, and her attitude morph.

We see Ethan Hawke (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role) as their father, and he takes over a decade to be a better parent. We watch him come in and out of his children’s lives, go from being a once a year dad to a weekend dad, and eventually grow up enough to have his own wife and family. We see his childish looks fade over time as he embraces the responsible man he was meant to be.

We see Lorelei Linklater (director Richard Linklater’s daughter), as Mason’s sister Sam, develop into a mature young woman. We watch her go from bratty older sister to an indifferent teen to a hipster college chick. We see her gossip with friends, dye her hair, get piercings and get hungover.


And finally we see Ellar Coltrane as Mason. We watch Mason grow..literally. From reading Harry Potter books with his mom to getting pissed off at being forced to get a haircut, from learning about sex to having sex, from having a girlfriend to getting his heart broken. We even see professional growth from tagging graffiti as a kid to becoming a photographer. We hear his voice crack, see him sprout a couple inches through puberty, see the acne and watch him develop facial hair. We watch him go from a boy to a young man.

Instead of seeing different actors cast for various ages throughout one character’s life, we witnessed the metamorphosis of the same characters into the people they are today. Boyhood isn't just about boyhood. It's a movie about...well...life.

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