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Boyhoodchronicles one boy's epic journey to adulthood. Writer/director Richard Linklater follows the same actors over 12 years to tell a coming-of-age story like none other in film history. (From the Paramount synopsis)

Charting the life of a character or person over time is not a brand new concept to cinema. Michael Apted's Up Series and Truffaut's Antonie Doinel films  have covered this ground to some extent. Even Linklater himself has revisted his characters Jesse and Celine every ten years in the Before Trilogy. But Boyhood takes the passage of time and distils it into a single, wholly unique cinematic experience. Watching the characters age naturally on the screen is almost surreal. I've always held a fondness toward a well told coming of age story, and witnessing the character literally age on screen adds a tremendous amount of weight to the overall impact of Boyhood.

Boyhood seems to get most of its press over the fact that it was filmed over 12 years, which forces me to contemplate if the movie would be much good without this hook. It's easy to look at the big picture of Boyhood and be impressed by the scope, but Linklater has a real gift for character and long exchanges dialogue. Just watch the aforementioned Before Trilogy for all the proof you need. Scenes like these are where Boyhood shines the most, and on my second viewing at home I realized just how much it succeeds on a moment to moment basis.

Linklater deserves major credit for being able to shoot part of a film for twelve years straight and still turn each piece into a cohesive, resonant whole. Just having a team of actors dedicated to the long haul is impressive. The central character of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is a bit plain, but this seems entirely intentional and it works for the narrative. 1st through 12th grade are when a lot of people's personalities are formed, and having a thinly written protagonist makes it easier for more kinds of viewers to identify with Mason. Maybe I'm not the best judge of how universal the character is, seeing as I'm also a young white man that grew up in central Texas, but for what it's worth the movie's tricks worked on me and I found it very relatable.

With Mason not being much of a character until later in the movie, the supporting cast steps up to do some heavy lifting. My favorite Ethan Hawke performances are all from Richard Linklater films, and Boyhood is no exception. Watching his character grow from a struggling, mostly absent parent to a family man is just as rewarding as seeing Mason's journey to adulthood. Patricia Arquette gives an award worthy performance as Mason's mother, moving from one disappointing relationship to the next while trying to protect her children.



This 1080p transfer from Paramount offers a viewing experience on par with my theatrical viewing of Boyhood. Linklater shot the film in 35mm hoping to keep a consistent  appearance throughout the twelve years of filming, and first the most part this is really successful. Still, some inconsistencies with the image exist. The footage shot around twelve years ago actually appears to be dated and a bit rougher around the edges with harsher grain, but it usually looks about as good as any movie from the era does on this format. One scene during a party at night is especially low in quality, but luckily a rare exception. Linklater goes for a modest, down to earth look, so there aren't a lot of flashy visuals on display. More often than not, this is a strong transfer with a very natural filmic appearance and good detail. Sometimes black levels verge on a blue, almost solarized appearance that isn't too attractive, but again, this is a thing that only pop up on occasion.


This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is, like the movie it is attached to, modest in presentation. This is a drama primarily made up of people having conversations, and all of that dialogue is leveled well and easy to understand without adjust volumes. The soundtrack, which features songs from the early 2000's and on, just makes me feel old. Is Coldplay's "Yellow" really about to be 15 years old? I can't say a lot of the track choices are my favorites, but they are definitely memorable and fit the era on screen. They also sound excellent in this mix and really bring the whole 5.1 setup alive. Surround channels are mostly just used for background noise at a party or the ambient noise of a restaurant. And that's fine. This isn't a flashy movie and this track meets its needs with ease.



The short list of extras starts with The 12 Year Project (HD, 19:11) which is an incredibly endearing behind the scenes look at the movie that starts when the project did. It is neat to hear Linklater's thought process, but it might be even more awesome to see a young Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater answer questions about what they like. Lorelai says Waking Life has cool animation but it's boring. Ellar's favorite movies are Blade Runner and Dark City. The various interviews span the whole production of the movie and offer an array of insights. I could've watched a three hour version of this. The other extra is a Q&A with Richard Linklater and the Cast (HD, 52:38) that took place after a Cinefamily screening. As you can imagine a lot of the questions have to do with filming a movie over 12 years and how that unique experience played out. It can feel a bit dull at times but there is a lot of good stuff here.



Boyhood deserves to be seen for the story behind its existence, but it is more than a cool conceit. This is a touching drama and one of Linklater's best. It deserves the award attention it is receiving, and you can count on me whining if Patricia Arquette doesn't take home an Oscar for best support actress. This Blu-ray disc from Paramount is a little inconsistent in the picture quality department, but otherwise just fine. Extras are light but very worthwhile.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.