There isn’t a mother who won’t shed a tear in this film.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is justifiably praised in every respect, but it needs to be seen in the theater. I know it lasts nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes, but it is hard to imagine it playing the same at home where you are likely to encounter multiple diversions.
Quite frankly, it could have easily been called “Girlhood” or “Parenthood”, as it covers an entire family’s development from the time a young boy is 5 years old to when he enters college at 18. Everything that occurs is profoundly real, and Mr. Linklater’s courage to follow a kid over 13 years is an accomplishment that defies adequate description.
To begin with, you watch Mason (Ellar Contrane) as he gallops into his teenage years, and it in many ways is like watching a home movie. You see him battling homework assignments in elementary school to battling artistic assignments in high school, and he reflects everyone’s teenage son who is challenging parents while he tries to think outside the box. Mr. Coltrane is fantastic.
On top of that, Patricia Arquette is the star of the film, playing a mother who is trying to provide for her daughter and son as she attempts to keep her own life from falling apart. Divorced from Mason’s father, played in an expected captivating performance by Ethan Hawke, she ventures through two other marriages as she mistakenly marries husbands whose alcoholic depression destroys any semblance of family life.
As noted, Ethan Hawke is a father who disappeared to Alaska in his son’s early years only to reappear and try to play some meaningful role. Hawke is flawed but genuine, and he brings to Linklater’s film the same strength that he displayed in Linklater’s marriage trilogy, Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013).
The strength of this film is its honesty, and that becomes particularly relevant when you see both Mason and his sister Samantha leave for college. As they wrestle with their own future, you also see a mother devastated as a child leaves home.
As I write this review, it is the middle of August, and college is about to start. Many of my friends are having a child leave home for the first time, and strong, professional mothers are wrestling personally with the consequences. As you watch Ms. Arquette in the this same position, you can only imagine what it is like to come home to an empty room filled for 18 years by a child who has been guided to embrace an unknown future.
Boyhood is not a great movie, but it is a great experience. Permeated by magnificent performances, you are simply reminded of the human experience involved with raising children. I don’t know if Mr. Linklater deserves an Oscar, but he does deserve our applause.