Movie Review: Boyhood

As a mama, it’s rare that I actually see movies in the theater anymore (babysitter + NYC ticket prices + popcorn = $$) but I make an exception for indies that I really want to support. Last year, I left my husband and baby behind and went to see Richard Linklater’s  Before Midnight by myself. I was more excited about that sequel (to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) than any of the typical sequels, prequels and reboots that have taken over the box office.

This summer, my can’t-miss film was Boyhood. The premise was ambitious – take a 6 year-old kid and film a few scenes every year until he turns 18, showing the boy (and his sister and parents) aging in real time. In the hands of a lesser director, the end result could have turned out maudlin or full of coming-of-age clichés. Instead, the film feels like a quasi-documentary, a fictional story in which we watch a real boy grow up.

copyright IFC Films

The boy, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane, is a sweet kid with a beautiful, mellow energy that belies his often turbulent, nomadic upbringing. As a child of divorce myself, I couldn’t help but identify with the frustration expressed by his sister (Lorelei Linklater), when their mother constantly uproots them. But at the end, when his mother grieves for her now-empty nest, it was a vision of my future.

I was lucky enough to attend a screening with a Q&A with the director and star afterwards. Linklater said that he had the idea for the overall structure of the story at the beginning, but allowed the scenes themselves to be improvised a bit to reflect changes in the real actors’  lives from year to year. He noted that as a director and writer, he considers structure more important than plot, which he thinks can start to feel artificial. This film felt true to me, and apparently critics agree, as it currently has a 100% Fresh Rating at RottenTomatoes.

You can see it now in NYC or LA, and it opens nationally on July 18.