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Boyhood (2014)

tomatometer

99

Average Rating: 9.4/10
Reviews Counted: 187
Fresh: 185 | Rotten: 2

Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition.

100

Average Rating: 9.7/10
Critic Reviews: 45
Fresh: 45 | Rotten: 0

Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition.

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4.4/5
User Ratings: 37,946

My Rating

Movie Info

Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, BOYHOOD charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before. Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family

R,

Drama

$13.6M

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July 11, 2014:
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July 10, 2014:
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This week at the movies, we've got just one wide release: the hotly-anticipated Dawn Of The Planet...

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All Critics (187) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (185) | Rotten (2)

An exceptionally well-crafted coming-of-age story.

August 10, 2014 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The closest thing to a lived life that fictional cinema has yet produced.

July 31, 2014 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Linklater has crafted what may be the most ingenious film of the century here and given it a tone like no other ...

July 30, 2014 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Is it dumb to say, "Wow?" I don't care. Wow.

July 25, 2014 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The year's most captivating narrative experiment, and possibly the most engrossing coming-of-age movie in the history of the genre.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Boyhood understands the tumult of childhood and adolescence as well as it does the hurdles and satisfaction of raising children.

July 24, 2014 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

While it is really an exploration of 12 mundane years in the life of a fairly ordinary American family, it is never boring and rarely makes you think that anything that happens was forced.

August 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Daily Film Fix
Daily Film Fix

One of the most emotionally powerful films of this or any other year.

August 20, 2014 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Recommending a movie without a plot sounds ludicrous. That is, unless the movie is 'Boyhood' and the movie was written and directed by Richard Linklater, whose 'Before Sunrise,' 'Before Sunset' and 'Before Midnight' are beloved by so many film-goers.

August 19, 2014 Full Review Source: Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)
Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)

"Boyhood" a subtle, powerful meditation on life.

August 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Illinois Times
Illinois Times

One of the great films of modern times.

August 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

There is something quite extraordinary about Richard Linklater's film as it depicts a fictional representation about growing up, family, relationships and life's choices - using real time as its bookmark and calling card.

August 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A wondrous exhibition of the intangibles that make a film great: tone, pacing, authenticity, subtext. But it's most masterful at capturing the bittersweet passage of time.

August 15, 2014 Full Review Source: MLive.com
MLive.com

Watching the film is less a matter of observing characters than spending time with friends.

August 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

Cinematic poetry...As that greatest of screen rarities—a potentially mainstream experimental film—the writer-director earns a bit of slack in gratitude for the strange and wonderful gift Boyhood is...

August 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

For all of its contained and implied profundities, Boyhood succeeds in large part thanks to a virtually unnoticeable sleight of hand.

August 11, 2014 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

This film hits you in personal ways that have more to do with your identity and memory than with the film itself.

August 11, 2014 Full Review Source: The Virginian-Pilot
The Virginian-Pilot

Too realistic to be inspirational but too genuine to fault, "Boyhood" is, against all odds, a cohesive cinematic feat not likely to be matched any time soon.

August 9, 2014 Full Review Source: Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

Adjectives really don't do this one justice. Richard Linklater's 12-year project is brilliant. And bold. And innovative. And not to be missed.

August 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Tri-City Herald
Tri-City Herald

Watching these characters orbit in and out of one another's lives gives a sense of actually watching people -- not canned archetypes, but fully formed people -- get older.

August 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Maclean's Magazine
Maclean's Magazine

Both a conceptual tour de force and a fragile, unassuming slice of movie life.

August 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Artforum
Artforum

A masterpiece of independent filmmaking, Boyhood is nothing short of an emotional epic, one that is relatable and moving and entirely unforgettable.

August 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune
Times-Picayune

Linklater strings these ordinary moments together like Christmas lights to make an entrancing portrait of life.

August 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Madison Movie
Madison Movie

It's not every day you see something you don't see every day. The day you experience Linklater's remarkable new work, I guarantee, will be one you won't soon forget. It's perhaps the most artful and audacious experiment in the history of film.

August 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A work that easily breaks free of the shackles of "just a gimmick" and emerges as a superb motion picture in its own right.

August 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for Boyhood

This is the most interesting movie about nothing that you will ever see. The story is just a look at 12 years in the life of a broken family. But, what makes this stand out is the execution and novelty of how this movie was made. The director filmed this over 12 years with the exact same cast. The director Richard Linklater found a boy named Ellar Coltrane and basically filmed him for 12 years. Filming a few days at a time, capturing the boy from age 6 to 18. It's fascinating to see him age right before you. The whole cast age for that matter. Nothing major happens like people dieing or murders, just life. Simple, everyday life. It's not a documentary at all, it's a scripted drama, but plays out different due to the real time lapse for the actors. The one downside is the length. This movie is nearly 3 hours long, but I was riveted the entire time. It's never dull, even when it drags. When it's over I looked at Emily and said "There will never be another movie like that" and it's true. This is a fantastic experiment in film that will hopefully be recognized come award season. Looking for something genuinely unique and different from any movie out there, check it out.
August 22, 2014
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

Watch Mason Jr. survive a bratty sister, first love, and a succession of stepfathers as he grows from a boy to a man in this narrative experiment shot over 12 years with the same actors. Even though nothing out of the ordinary happens in BOYHOOD, it's strangely absorbing to watch the cast age in front of your eyes. I can't think of any other fiction film that so carefully imitates the intimacy of a good documentary.
August 20, 2014
366weirdmovies
Greg S

Super Reviewer

One of the most remarkable films I have ever seen, and easily the best so-far in 2014. A flawless, engaging effort, Boyhood perfectly captures universal human truths as well as the Millennial Generation. It is a massive yet ultimately intimate and moving effort that should also be applauded for its ambition.
August 16, 2014
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

Richard Linklater is one of the most experimental filmmakers in the indie community, but just about everyone was caught unaware when he announced the completion of his newest project, Boyhood. For the past twelve years, Linklater and a small crew had been shooting a secret movie chronicling the life of a boy from age six to eighteen. The ensuing twelve years gave Linklater plenty of time to examine his narrative, and he also happened to make nine other movies while working on Boyhood. Now his covert pet project is playing to near euphoric reviews and plenty of early awards buzz. As big a fan I am of Linklater as a storyteller, especially with his brilliant Before trilogy, I feel hesitant to find fault in such an ambitious, sprawling project. This is a very good movie all around, but I have enough remaining reservations that keep Boyhood from being in the same league as his Linklater's best work.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's own daughter) are living with their Mom (Patricia Arquette). She's struggling to get by, with little help from their Dad (Ethan Hawke), who took off to Alaska to find work but really as a means of shirking responsibility. Dad comes back into their lives, Mom enrolls in school to provide a better life for her children, and along the way and many moves there are bad stepfathers that come in, new children and stepsiblings, new schools, new boyfriends and girlfriends, and all the moments that add up to comprise a life.

Boyhood is less a film and more a cinematic experience that's hard to replicate. It thrums with the natural rhythms of life, rising and falling on the small moments. Now there are a few larger scenes of drama, mostly concerning breakups and an abusive alcoholic stepfather, but otherwise the film follows the natural progression of not just Mason but his enter sphere of influences, namely family members, friends, girlfriends, etc. It's a portrait of time beyond all else, and Mason's parents are just as interesting to follow. Like their children, they too are in over their heads, looking for proper footing and a sense of identity, and in the ensuing 160-some minutes, we won't just watch a boy become a man but two adults become responsible, accomplished, and determined caregivers. There is much to take in and to immerse one's self in the refreshing minutia of life itself. The film feels authentic at every step, sometimes to its own detriment (more on that below), and it's quite easy to plug into this relatable family drama and become engrossed. Don't let the hearty length scare you, we are moving through 12 years and as such the segments don't overstay their welcome. After every time leap, there's a small game of trying to play catch up, noting all the differences, not just the actors growth spurts, but the new touchstones; before Mom was arranging a date with her psychology professor, and now they're coming back from their honeymoon. It also allows us to watch the subtle transformation of characters but also watching the long consequences of anger. Dad takes Mason and Samantha out and is floored by the revelation that neither remembers a family camping outing that was filled with laughter. What they remember, starkly, are the shouting matches between mom and dad. It's a definite wake-up call.

Because of its in-the-moment nature, it's difficult to single out storylines that play out significantly better than others. Each person is going to respond better to different moments, the points of relatability and comfort. I loved a scene where Dad plunges into the awkward territory of having the Sex Talk with his teen daughter. It's just as awkward and funny as you'd expect, but they plow along and it's a small moment where Dad shows his own growth as a responsible parent, a man who understands the world his children will enter and the pitfalls that await, who wants them to do better than he did. It's a funny scene sure enough but it's also a clear shift in Dad as a character. The allure of realism is rarely broken throughout the film, which imbues the film with a bracing sense of honesty in its details. There aren't any big inspirational speeches (maybe one by a teacher), mostly talks meant to bridge the gap of understanding. There aren't any eureka moments, in fact Mom even bemoans the absence of feeling something more significant when her children have left the nest. There aren't any singular-defining dramatic moments because we are all the sum total of many moments, good and bad. The greatness of Boyhood is that it is a film of moments but moments you want to indulge in, like lingering nostalgic memories. It's a richly pleasant experience.

My friend and critic colleague Ben Bailey asked me whether this story would have been irreversibly different or worse had they just cast several young actors or used makeup as a primary force to illustrate the passage of time. After giving it a good ponder as any critic should, the conclusion I came up with was a surprising... "No." With the 7 Up documentary series, or Linklater's own Before trilogy, the passage of time is also a reflection of us, allowing us to likewise catch up with the familiar faces but reflect upon our own lives. Plus it's a work in progress, a series that matures and evolves and with each additional segment becomes a stronger and more compelling whole. With Boyhood, we get the entire passage of time all in one movie, and it just doesn't play the same. With the other series I've mentioned, we get entire movies to dig into these people at different pit stops in their lives. With Boyhood, it's less so. Here we get the (to our knowledge) full story, and watching the actors age is its own interesting experiment, but is this story really aided by this approach? I have my doubts, at least to the degree to justify the 12-years-in-the-making gimmick that has captured most of the media attention. It's just as interesting to compare and contrast the other actors, notably Mason's onscreen parents. 2002 Ethan Hawke is still the young reckless heartthrob, whereas 2014 Ethan Hawke has a bit of a paunch, lines around the eyes, and the gradual acceptance of his changing life style. But does the gimmick add any greater thematic impact to the film other than the odd notoriety of watching a visual yearbook for a select series of actors?

The other quibble I have is larger, mostly that the movie is tied to a character that is rather something of a bore. As a child, Mason is more reactionary to the world around him, taking in all these experiences, especially the hurtful remarks of adults and the long-term effects of all that marital discord and abusive stepfathers. He's quiet, a bit lackadaisical, generally procrastinating and stretching rules, but he's really just a boring kid who grows into a boring teenager. Now there are certainly plenty of relatable qualities to him that extend beyond his external situations and family conflicts. Plenty will be able to relate about the struggle to fit in, the points of self-discovery, and the initial buzz of a romantic mingling, among other coming-of-age moments. The problem is that Mason is struggling with finding his own onscreen identity. It would be foolish to have this kid suddenly know with divine clarity who he is and what he wants to be, but would it be breaking the confines of realism to give this character a personality? He ends up becoming this blank canvas for the audience to project themselves onto. If we're going to spend nearly three hours watching the emergence of a character, it needs to be someone the audience can engage with so that their journey has a lasting emotional impact. Mason is an ordinary teenager, which means he's an otherwise shrug-worthy figure for this massive of an underserved spotlight.

Perceptive, funny, warmly affectionate, and well made in just about every capacity, Boyhood is an enjoyable movie from start to finish, another fine achievement for director Richard Linklater. It is a movie about a young man coming into his own, but it's also a film about those around him doing likewise, maturing, aging, but mostly gaining some stronger sense of themselves and stepping out to make this happen. It's a tale of life told in micro and macro, and while it lacks the cumulative impact of the 7 Up series of the Before films, it certainly has enough measured drama and honest reflections to stir a bevy of feelings with its audience. I only wish the main character was a more interesting focal point for this twelve-years-in-the-making project, especially with all that added time for Linklater and company to double back and alter their narrative. The character quibbles, and the ultimately unnecessary gimmicky nature of its conceit, are enough to blunt its overall longstanding resonance for me, but this is still a very fine movie and one that no other filmmaker working today could deliver. I just wonder what other secret films Linklater is keeping from us.

Nate's Grade: B+
August 14, 2014
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

    1. Dad: Hey. Grab the McCain sign.
    2. Mason: Dad, we could get arrested.
    3. Dad: Just put it in the car. I'm being patriotic.
    – Submitted by Moe J (21 days ago)
    1. Mason: It's like it's always right now.
    – Submitted by Danny M (35 days ago)
    1. Dad: You don't want the bumpers.
    – Submitted by Ben J (35 days ago)
    1. Dad: "You don't want the bumpers. Life doesn't give you bumpers."
    – Submitted by Ryan B (39 days ago)
    1. Dad: Life doesn't give you bumpers.
    – Submitted by Elena S (42 days ago)
View all quotes (5)

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