Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelai Linklater
Studio: IFC Films

“Boyhood” has taken me two weeks to process. Many reviewers have discussed how an appreciation of the circumstances onscreen would help to inform your take. Honestly, I’ve got nothing in common with the lead actor outside of an XY chromosome set. What I appreciate is the lengths that Linklater undertook to show a child aging in the modern American family. Pressures from all sides, the loss of self control and the constant quest for an identity are something that breaks all socio-political boundaries. You recognize the pop cuts on the soundtrack, you share the experience and you feel a distant connection to the intimacy of young Mason’s life. While the stuff with the stepfather might scare off the timid, it’s the sort of material that makes up tales of a young childhood.

Richard Linklater is a nonconformist director by way of examining the merits and disadvantages of conformity in America. Whether it’s “Slacker”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Waking Life” or even “The Newton Boys”, the issue gets covered a lot in the man’s work. We are a nation of tradition in the sense that we keep passing down the fantasy that there is a middle ground sense of normalcy that informs our lives. We struggle and strive to maintain it, all the while sacrificing that which surrounds us. If anything, this is a film more about family interaction as a unit than an individual child’s perspective.

Watching Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette struggle in their own ways to recreate a family without the ex-partner is staggering. Given the scope of the film and the realistic tone, it’s easy to forget that Hawke and Arquette exists outside of this world. Audiences will find real world parallels in almost every scene. While not every background lines up perfectly with that of Boyhood, the film works as a prism to reflect the lives of all goofy childhoods and struggling parents. There’s so much going on and so much to discover over the years, that I’m willing to call this Linklater’s masterpiece.

Over 165 minutes, “Boyhood” pulls back the illusion of childhood and offers up something real that has been missing from American cinema. Social dramas about the real adversities facing modern society often get relegated to the dustbin or the melodramas of basic cable. You can talk about family drama and find a line that rests somewhere between Stanley Kramer and Ingmar Bergman. The cinema needs to be a place to entertain, as well as inform. It also needs to be where we go to find our faults and examine how they were created. “Boyhood” does that without talking down to any member of your family that ventures out to see it. This is the Best of 2014 so far.


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