Subscribe
MaxSpace

Boyhood

Richard Linklater's masterpiece is about childhood, growing up, and time itself.

By Max Weiss | July 30, 2014, 11:05 am

-IFC Films
MaxSpace

Boyhood

Richard Linklater's masterpiece is about childhood, growing up, and time itself.

By Max Weiss | July 30, 2014, 11:05 am

-IFC Films

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

Along with our use of language and those nifty opposable thumbs, the thing that really distinguishes us humans is our awareness of our own mortality. We know that we’re going to die and that’s why reflecting on the passage of time makes us wistful. Looking at old photos—of ourselves, of our parents, of our children—can be a profoundly emotional experience. “Look at how young we all were,’’ we say, as though the passage of time has snuck up on us, as though we forgot to read the fine print.

It’s that quality—of nostalgia, of melancholy, of longing—that Richard Linklater has captured so perfectly in his groundbreaking Boyhood. The star of his film? Technically a great young actor named Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, the boy of the title. But, of course, the film’s true star is time itself. Linklater filmed Boyhood in his own hometown of Houston, Texas over the course of 12 years. When the film first starts, Mason is 6. By the time it ends, he is 18. The wonderful adult actors who play Mason’s estranged parents—Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette—age, too. Arquette’s Olivia gains (and then loses) some weight, marries twice, gets an advanced degree. Hawke’s Mason Sr., gets a little thicker in the middle and sheds some of his maddening (if endearing) man-child ways. But to watch Coltrane’s Mason go from chubby-cheeked child to lanky young adult (when his voice changes, you almost gasp), is an unbelievably profound and poignant experience.

Knowing this, Linklater doesn’t overplay his hand. He doesn’t feel a need to show us every milestone—first kiss, first fight, first heartbreak—or any of the things you might expect. Instead, he drops in on Mason’s life on average days—sometimes big things happen (like the day the family flees from Olivia’s second husband, who is abusive). And sometimes nothing much happens at all (a lazy trip to the lake with his father). What resonates most are the small, evocative moments, like when Mason and his sister Samantha (played by the excellent Lorelei Linklater, who is the director’s daughter) are bickering in the backseat of the car. “Put up the barrier!” Olivia bellows, from the front. A makeshift barrier is quickly assembled, but moments later, they are reaching behind it, to tickle each other and giggle.

When Mason first starts to develop an interest in photography and when he first begins espousing his grandiose, teenage theories on man’s overreliance on technology, we feel a strange surge of recognition and even pride. He was somewhat passively led around by his parents, as most children are. Now he’s developing a philosophy, a worldview of his own. That’s what growing up is.

Most serious films try to tell us something about life, but rarely has one done what Boyhood does—simply shown us a life, in all of its ordinary extraordinariness.

Boyhood opens Friday, August 1 in Baltimore.




Meet The Author
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

You May Also Like


Arts District

The Big Baltimore Playlist: January 2018

The top five local songs you should download right now.

Arts & Culture

Marian Crotty Discusses New Collection What Counts as Love

The Loyola professor talks about the process of collecting short stories for her latest release.

Arts & Culture

Book Reviews: January 2018

The latest from Allison Robicelli and Timmy Reid.


Arts & Culture

Found Art

Scenes from Normal's Books & Records and the Baltimore American Indian Center.

MaxSpace

Review: Phantom Thread

If this really is Daniel Day-Lewis' last film, what a sendoff.

On The Town

Ring in 2018 With These New Year’s Eve Parties and Concerts

From family fun to midnight music, here’s your New Year’s Eve going-out guide.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Baltimore Women’s March Moves Downtown as Thousands Plan to Participate: This year’s theme encourages voter registration in 2018 elections.

Ryan’s Daughter Owner Shares Fond Memories Before Closing This Weekend: Marwan Daas and his wife pay tribute to their 14-year-old Irish pub.

Walters Curator Says Google Arts App is Good Start But Not Perfect: The museum has more than 1,400 works represented in the app's collection.

Here’s What We’d Like to See in the New Penn Station: Penn Station Partners will be refreshing the century-old train station.

Ten Incredibly Easy Ways to Be More Active in 2018: Get creative with walking meetings, workout buddies, and local sports leagues.