The mere existence of something like Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is nothing short of a cinematic miracle. Filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast, aging in real time, it tells a seemingly ordinary story with an extraordinary sense of intimacy and patience, profoundly urging the viewer to consider their own lives. In its own way as ambitious an undertaking as any of Hollywood’s epics, “Boyhood” is an historic achievement, and one that shouldn’t be forgotten come Oscar season.
The simplicity of the story’s details lend the experience an almost universal quality, albeit one that’s peppered with numerous details, from popular songs and video games specific to the time period to Harry Potter mania to the political landscape. “Boyhood” is about a young man, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows up in Texas after his parent’s divorce, but it’s just as much about his mother’s (Patricia Arquette) efforts to make a better life for her family, and his father (Ethan Hawke) trying to get his own act together, and, ultimately, the interconnectedness of all things. It brings to mind the poetry of William Blade: “To see the world in a grain of sand.”
For all of its contained and implied profundities, “Boyhood” succeeds in large part thanks to a virtually unnoticeable sleight of hand. The cinematography by Lee Daniel and Shane Kelly finds poetry in quotidian details, and reminds us that familiar surroundings are still beautiful (even when the characters themselves forget this). Editor Sandra Adair frequently cuts on motion, suggesting the fluidity of time and experience. “Boyhood” dispenses with time cards or chapters, leaving it to the changing appearances of its actors and contextual details to indicate life’s inexorable march forward. It is nothing less than a great work of both empathy and faith.
“Boyhood” is now playing in theaters nationwide.
Robert Humanick is a contributing writer for slantmagazine.com