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FLIX: 'Boyhood' is cinematic journey

By BY JOE FRIAR
July 16, 2014 at 2:16 a.m.


BOYHOOD

• CAST: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Elijah Smith, Steven Price

• DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater

"Boyhood" opens Friday at the River Oaks (Houston), the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, Violet Crown, and Arbor at Great Hills (Austin) and Aug. 1 at the Bijou Cinema Bistro in San Antonio.

Richard Linklater's new film is nothing short of miraculous.

There has never been another movie like it, and it's hard not to be emotionally moved by this wonderful journey called "Boyhood."

The film opens with 6-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) lying on the green Texas grass, staring up at the clouds. You wonder what is going through this little boy's head, and then you remember the days when you were 6 and carefree, watching the clouds go by.

What were you thinking about when you were 6?

Forty years later, as I sit here writing this review - married, with a wife, two teenage kids, a dog, a cat and a fish - I realize that life goes by quickly.

It seems like it was just yesterday when I was 6 and not worried about the fact that my younger brother learned to tie his shoes before me or the excitement I was feeling when I learned to ride my bike without training wheels.

I may have been a late bloomer, but I was 6 and carefree.

Linklater began filming "Boyhood" in 2002.

And for the next 12 years, he shot a few scenes each year with the cast.

Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play divorced parents Olivia and Mason Sr., and Ellar Coltrane and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei, play the kids, Mason Jr. and Samantha.

It was fascinating to watch these kids grow up in front us in the course of two hours and 44 minutes, from starting elementary school to graduating high school and moving off to college.

It's not the first time Linklater's actors have aged in front of us, especially Hawke, who alongside Julie Delpy spanned almost two decades aging on screen from 1995 to 2013 in the "Before" trilogy of films.

"Boyhood" takes place in various cities across Texas, including Houston, Austin and San Marcos.

Single mom Olivia moves her family because of college and work as she strives to give them a better life.

Along the way, she goes through a couple of different men who seemed to be great providers for her family but turn out to be something less desirable.

She makes the tough decisions that a lot of women have to make in these kinds of situations.

Do I stay in an abusive relationship or get the courage to pack up and go? She makes the choice to put her kids first.

We see her strive in this film going from a hardworking mom putting herself through college to graduating and becoming a professor.

Dad is portrayed as the fun parent who only gets to see his kids on weekends.

He drives down in his muscle car, taking them to out to Astros games and bowling. But he also realizes that he doesn't know his kids very well.

There's a great scene where Dad pulls the car over just to try and get the kids to talk to him and open up about what is happening in their lives, which is met with Samantha shooting back the same kinds of questions because she also doesn't know what's happening in her dad's life.

As the years progress, the kids aren't the only ones who do a lot of growing, as we watch Mason Sr. mature in age and wisdom.

You can't help but think about your own journey and how you survived past relationships, your first love, losing friends and making new ones. You watch these characters go through life.

Linklater manages to capture so many momentous parts of growing up because of a great script and acting.

It seems so natural that it's easy to visualize Linklater letting the camera just roll to capture various chapters of growing up, which may lead you to believe that most of the film was ad-libbed.

Yet, to the contrary, Linklater heavily scripted each scene after having long discussions with the actors through the years about the direction their characters were headed.

There were a few lines that were ad-libbed, and one of the best involves Hawke talking to Coltrane around a campfire about "Star Wars."

There are no time stamps in the film, but it's entertaining to gauge the year not only by the characters visible changes but by the pop culture references they make such as "Harry Potter" and the Game Boy Advance SP - even the introduction of cellphones.

When you sit and think about how many things could have gone wrong with the project over the years - like actors becoming disinterested or the studio changing its mind - it's a testament to the accomplishment that Linklater pulled off. When the credits roll and the theater lights come up, you're reminded how life moves by pretty quickly.

Rating: 5 stars

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Houston Film Critics Society and juror at the Victoria Independent Film Festival. He reviews films every Friday on Hit Radio 104.7 KVIC. Contact Joe at jfriar95@gmail.com.

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