“Life doesn’t give you bumpers.”

I went to see this in the cinema a couple of weeks ago, having heard great things about the movie shot over 12 years of one single boy’s life, and the concept intrigued me. Richard Linklater wrote, directed, and co-produced a movie that did not disappoint.

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In 2002, a young Ellar Coltrane was cast to play Mason Jr., a six year old who we follow through to the age of 18 when he goes off to college, seeing how his life changes and his experiences and the way he sees the world. We also see other members of his family develop; his older sister Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei Linklater), his father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) and, in my opinion, the most heartbreaking character his mother, Olivia, played stunningly by Patricia Arquette. The film follows these characters as they move from small-town Texas to Houston, to San Marcos, through a series of new homes, new step-fathers and bad relationships.

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Each character has their own arc, and an arc like no other as the characters age with the actors and the actors use their own life experiences at that time to fuel their character. Ethan Hawke shows as his character goes from a young, smoking, swearing, irresponsible failed musician who lives in a dank and tiny apartment to a responsible father-of-three with a new wife and new stable job, finally becoming the father he should have been all along. Samantha goes from a bratty child who shows off her school grades and always insults her brother’s intelligence, to a teenager who is embarrassed by her mother and brother and lives in her own little bubble until she leaves home and goes to college, where she creates a tighter bond with her little brother. Then comes Patricia Arquette playing Olivia, who starts out as a single mother taking classes in college with hopes and dreams, who goes through a series of bad husbands who abuse and mistreat her character, although she remains strong and a good mother to her children, until she becomes the broken character we see in her last scene, crying at the table as her son leaves for college, disappointed in life and saying: “I just wish it could have been better.”

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Finally, Mason Jr., the boy that it is all about. As the years pass we see him grow, going from a pleasant and inquisitive little boy to a self-conscious kid who grows his hair long, to a teenager with piercings who drinks and experiments with drugs and gets girls, to an aspiring photographer with an intelligent yet negative outlook on life until he finally goes to college and we see, as we reflect on how he has changed in the film, that he has grown up.

Watching these characters change through a couple of weeks of filming a year for 12 years is really something. It’s not the same experience as seeing different actors with vaguely familiar features playing different ages, it feels more real, more genuine, and you connect much more to the characters because you feel that yes, you have indeed watched them develop. The random time jumps give us an individual taste of what it is like for Mason to be that age, and the fact that they are unannounced illustrates just how fleeting childhood is, that we have no control over our ageing process and things just happen the way they do.

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Boyhood carries you along a journey of childhood, growing up, and emotional change, and I couldn’t help but notice the warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach as I left the cinema, the satisfaction I felt for having seen this film. This film is real art of cinema, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone, because everyone has grown up and everyone should connect with at least part of Mason’s ‘Boyhood’.

Verdict: 5 / 5 stars, incredible story, excellent acting (even from the very young Ellar Coltrane) and something that really must be experienced.

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