They grow up so fast, don't they? That's probably something any parent is willing to affirm, although in the movies it usually happens even more out-of-the-blue, with a kid suddenly turning into a completely different adult. In Richard Linklater's unprecedented film Boyhood, however, this process is for the first time documented 100 % authentically: Linklater filmed the logical title character growing up over a process of 12 years, shooting one sequence yearly from 2002, when actor Ellar Coltrane was 8, and up until 2013, when he was 19 and his character was about to start college. And around him, we also get to see his sister Samantha (played by the director's daughter, Lorelei Linklater) grow up, their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) develop from a young single mom into an educated middle-aged woman, and their father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) maturing from a semi-irresponsible, idealistic young adult into a conventional family man.
The yearly progression flows seamlessly and elegantly as Linklater cuts his scenes without any emphasis on the time-lapse itself – a clever trick which works to give the film a feeling of continuity despite the obvious segmented production method. And although every single one of the film's themes are more than recognisable within the coming-of-age subgenre, whether it's abusive step-fathers, compensatory weekend parenting, the harrowing process of moving and changing schools growing up, and, last but not least, finding one's identity as a young adult, Boyhood's fresh approach and unparalleled technical authenticity elevate the drama and make it all feel more palpable; you're transported back to those years of misery and wonder with a little extra force, even if Linklater's story is a little lazy at times. There's unexplored potential in the relationship between Arquette and Hawke (both of whom give accomplished performances), while the Mason Jr. character is often overexplored and overanalysed. But then of course, Linklater can explain this by saying that this is how it's like being young; you overanalyse and overthink stuff in order to be able to stand out and create your own identity. In the end, there's really nothing special about Mason Jr. but then again, that's the case for most kids.