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Joey Oster: 'Boyhood' may be best film of 2000s

By JOEY OSTER / VN Film Critic
On September 9, 2014

A major expectation of movies, in general, is to thrill us or overcome us with emotion.

As moviegoers, we crave films that take us away from our everyday lives through fantasy, humor or drama.

In the words of the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, movies are what life is with “the dull bits cut out.”

All great movies achieve this, which is a quality that makes “Boyhood” so remarkable.

“Boyhood” takes the so-called mundane moments in life and makes them engaging and genuine without overdramatizing them.

Filmed sporadically over a period of 12 years, “Boyhood” follows Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) from ages six to 18. The film is built on the relationships Mason has with his separated parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette in two Oscar-worthy performances) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).

Richard Linklater, the film’s producer/writer/director, handles the passing of time perfectly.

The film features no subtitles or spoken word to convey the changing of the years, and each scene seamlessly transitions to the next, skipping what would be considered major plot points in another film, such as his sister’s graduation.

These “holes” in the plot add to the authenticity of the film.

The editing plays out as if the audience were looking back with Mason on his memory of childhood.

While we aren’t able to see everything – granted, that would literally take years, as opposed to 165 minutes – it doesn’t matter when it comes to studying the character development of Mason.

It’s simply engulfing to watch him mature and grow into a thoughtful, young man.

I could lay out the entire plot for you from start to finish because it wouldn’t spoil anything. Words can’t convey the growth seen on screen, not only in the characters but also in the actors themselves.

And, in a sense, it’s almost eerie watching the growth play out.

Mason grows up on film the way in which we would watch a family member do so.

He acquires so many subtle differences that his aging goes unnoticed at first.

It’s why halfway through the film, it’s shocking to realize that we’re now seeing this quiet, thoughtful teenager and no longer a boy filled with wonder.

The same goes for Mason’s mother, Samantha, and his father, Mason Sr., whose development especially stands out.   

When we meet Mason Sr., he’s been working in Alaska for a little over a year and, therefore, hasn’t been too involved in the lives of his children.

At this point, Mason Sr. is clueless on how to be a father. Sure, he loves and sincerely cares for Mason and Samantha, but he’s just a bit too carefree.

Mason Sr. is still chasing his dream of playing in a band for a living and drives an old-school hot rod.

In his own ways, he’s trapped in “Boyhood,” just as much as his 7-year-old son. They’re on the same journey of entering and exiting “Boyhood.” The difference is that Mason Sr. is stuck in his twilight stages.

Hawke’s energy and sincerity make Mason Sr.’s evolution from a cool, hip guy to a straight-laced dad with a dorky mustache entirely believable.

So many scenes between Hawke and Coltrane straddle the line between adorable and heartbreaking.

Coltrane is able to retain the innocence of Mason’s awe of life as a boy, even as he gradually transforms into a young man who has been through the pressing growing pains of life.

By the end of the film, Hawke becomes the father that Mason Jr. had been missing in his life for so long.

We are able to watch their relationship unfold in a way that’s never before been portrayed on film.

I have to admit that I might be slightly biased in reviewing “Boyhood.”

I’m practically the same age as Mason, so many of the small details hit home for me in a way that couldn’t possibly be equivalent for a person in their forties.

Watching Dragon Ball Z, going to a Harry Potter midnight book premiere and playing Gameboy SP all directly relate to my generation.

There’s a scene where sixth grade Mason receives a note from a female classmate. Just as he flashes her a flirtatious smirk, “Crank That” by Soulja Boy fades in on the soundtrack, and the scene immediately cuts to Mason and his buddies bike riding and RipStik’ing their way down their street.

With moments like these, Linklater is able to capture the experience of growing up in a uniquely specific era, while still making the experience seem universal.

To question where “Boyhood” ranks among the best movies of 2014 would be disrespectful, as it’s the LeBron James of movies.

It’s not merely on a greater level than its competition, it’s on a whole other plane.

“Boyhood” flows swiftly, gently and effortlessly.

Forget movie of the year, “Boyhood” is the film of the new millennium.

FINAL GRADE: A+

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