Boyhood was released in 2014, but it has the unique distinction of being a film in progress over 12 years in the making, spanning from when lead character Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) is about 8 to about 18. We literally watch him grow up before our eyes, and, more depressingly for me, his parents age. It truly gives new meaning to the saying, “It goes by fast.” In one late scene right before sending her son off for college, Mason’s mother played by Patricia Arquette laments the quick reel of milestone after milestone flashing before her, saying, “I thought there’d be more.”
I was eager to see this film, being both an enthusiastic fan of writer/director Richard Linklater and longsighted and ambitious family projects. At 165 minutes, it’s a bit of a commitment, and it took a little while for me to ease into it. I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped in the first hour. But as we see Mason grow up, the film seems to get a bit more assured along with him, it discovers itself too. So that by the end it was the Linklater I’d expected. It had moments of real brilliance – particularly that final scene.
Here we are, with Mason, having one of those glorious and exhilarating afternoons of young adulthood and new freedom, and it feels like we know exactly who he is and what led him there in a way that’s very abnormal to feel for a character in a film.
I thought Ellar was wonderful as the young man Mason, and I wonder how much that’s a credit to Linklater’s prescient casting and how much is luck. He was sensitive yet brooding, smart and insightful yet still maturing, closed-off yet curious. He hit the very right notes and took me straight back to that time of life – when there’s so much optimism but also so much self-doubt. For me, this wasn’t a perfect film, but it had moments of true perfection.