Boyhood Parent Review
Despite its almost three-hour length, "Boyhood" is quite engaging.
Why is it that when someone needs psychiatric help, the doctor always begins by asking him or her about their childhood? It appears that the experiences of those developing years really do impact a person’s understanding of everything in life and the surrounding world.
In Boyhood, writer/director Richard Linklater takes a creative approach to exploring this formative stage. Asking for a twelve-year commitment from his cast members, Linklater began shooting a story about a youngster named Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) when he was five years old, updating his progress annually until he was eighteen. Although the movie may look like a documentary, it isn’t. Instead, it is a well-scripted fictional tale, and all of the family members are actors. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play Mason’s parents, while the filmmaker’s own daughter (Lorelei Linklater) takes on the role of his sister Samantha.
Certainly, the unique method of constructing this film is reason enough to be curious about the end product. Watching Ellar Coltrane (and Lorelei Linklater) grow up right before your eyes is truly amazing, as is the natural aging that occurs for both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. The inclusion of other actors that make periodic appearances over the dozen years as extended family and friends, also lends authenticity to what often feels like watching someone’s home videos (except these vignettes capture more pivotal moments than just birthdays and holidays). Meanwhile, a story emerges from this collection of clips in much the same way as an image materializes from the tiny pieces that make up a mosaic.
Despite its length (almost three hours), Boyhood is quite engaging. First introductions to Mason show a child growing up in a broken family, where Mom provides the stability and Dad offers fun on the weekends. As life evolves the kids get shuffled from city to city, school to school and home to home. Both Mom and Dad find other relationships, some more successful than others. Mason endures bullying and domestic abuse (as do some of the other characters). And as a teen he keeps his personal life private from the adults in his world, while he experiments with alcohol, drugs and sex. (Substance abuse and drug use are shown, along with kissing and implied sexual relations. Expect some strong language and sexual discussions too.)
Although Linklater’s time capsule (which includes music, pop culture and historical events occurring during the years he shot the film) may be most notable for its gimmick, how audiences react to it will likely have a lot to do with their own upbringing. While some may relate to the insecurities children experience due to their parents’ decisions, for me Boyhood was a tragedy. Having enjoyed happy, confidence-building relationships within my own family, it broke my heart to see the character of Mason having to rely on his own youthful judgment because he lacks a trusted source of mature wisdom. (I can only hope the real Ellar Coltrane faired better over the same twelve-year period.) I’m not sure what message Linklater hoped viewers would take away from this movie. Perhaps he just intended it to be an observation of childhood. For me it rang more as a cautionary tale for parents. After all, no man is an island—so whatever choices we make, we should expect them to have long-lasting consequences for our offspring.Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Salmon Coltrane, Ethan Hawke. Running time: 166 minutes. Updated May 23, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Boyhood here.
Boyhood Parents Guide
Boyhood is releasing in limited theaters on July 17, 2014..
From the Studio: Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, BOYHOOD charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay’s Yellow to Arcade Fire’s Deep Blue. BOYHOOD is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting.—Written by IFC Films
More About the Movie: Director Richard Linklater certainly gets credit for both creativity and patience. He used a similar approach in making his romantic trilogy (Before Sunrise - 1995, Before Sunset - 2004 and Before Midnight - 2013), which follows the same couple (played each time by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) at nine-year intervals.
Talk about the movie with your family…
How do the parents evolve over the course of the twelve years shown in the movie? What influences the mother to become less committed to parenting? What experiences may have caused the father to become more responsible as time passes?
When the mother removes Mason and Samantha from their alcoholic stepfather, she leaves his own children in his custody. Why? What can children do to protect themselves from abusive family situations?
Why are events, like moving, changing schools or re-marriages, so traumatic for children? What things might be done to try and ease the associated stresses? Why does it seem like the adults portrayed here fail to do many (if any) of those things?
Why might adults forget to consider the consequence their children may experience when they make decisions? Are there any choices parents can make that affect only themselves? Or do all actions have an impact others?