REVIEW: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette (and Richard Linklater, Of Course) Make 'Boyhood' Well Worth Your Time

By Ross Smirnoff on Aug 06, 2014 07:02 PM EDT

The premise of Boyhood, the much anticipated new feature from Richard Linklater, sounds simple enough: one boy, the state of Texas, over 12 years. In the opening shot, we see that little boy--no older than seven, say--sprawled out on Lone Star grass, his head towards the sky.

And that's about all, folks.

Linklater's film, coming in at just under the three-hour mark, is more series-of-moment aggregate than a narrative totale. But it's via Linklater's own stunningly idiomatic lens that we watch said boy grow into a man. Alongside director and actor (the equally brilliant Ellar Coltrane, in this case), we experience those things that every child brought up in America knows intimately: baseball games, birthday parties, trips to the bowling alley, camping expeditions, the occasional flirt with the opposite sex.

What makes this implied banality worth watching, of course, is that Boyhood is directed by Richard Linklater.

If you're a fan of his more character-driven films (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, perhaps even Waking Life), then you will appreciate the dialogue in this movie. Like Jesse and Céline, still, Linklater's creatures remain fascinated with modern philosophies. Plural. For example, there's the focus on the state of society in our digi-world (i.e. how much free will do we really have when we can be matched perfectly with a college roommate thanks to Facebook "likes?"). Chief among this cast's concerns, too, is the isolation a single mother (a forever flaxen Patricia Arquette) often feels, raising her children the best she can--only to realize that her own life has been nothing but a series of moments, itself.

Picked apart, it may seem like this movie is a long, boring downer. But it's not.

If anything, Linklater's singular vision combines with Coltrane and Arquette's spirited performances (and a host of Beatles tunes) to forge a film that's ultimately life-affirming. For all of our supposed differences, life is a journey we're all on. Together, no less. In fact, some of the best scenes in Boyhood are when the child's father (an otherwise so-so Ethan Hawke) picks up both of his kids from an estranged Arquette to take them on adventures. He speaks to them as if they are adults, begging, albeit subtly, for them to call him out on his distorted and jaded rhetoric.

All the while, we're granted a unique cinematic treat: to watch the same little boy grow up before our eyes on-screen.

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TagsREVIEW, Boyhood, Richard Linklater, Ross Smirnoff, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, The Beatles

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