'Boyhood': What the Critics Are Saying


Richard Linklater's indie, starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane, follows a boy's upbringing in a divorced household and was shot intermittently over 12 years.

After 12 years of intermittent filming, Richard Linklater's Boyhood, starring Ethan HawkePatricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane — cast at 7 years old — finally hits specialty box-office theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

The IFC Films high-profile indie drama, for which he won the best directing award at the Berlin Film Festival following the film's world premiere at Sundance, chronicles the story of a boy growing up in a divorced household.

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Read what top critics are saying about Boyhood:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy says in his review, "Perhaps never has the long arc of the journey from childhood to college been portrayed as cohesively and convincingly as Richard Linklater has done in a film that can be plain on a moment-to-moment basis but is something quite special in its entirety. ... Over time, Boyhood will be seen and deeply appreciated by viewers young and old on various formats and in different ways, with the end result that it will endure."

Additionally, Hawke and Arquette "thicken and mature gracefully over the 
course of the years," but the standout star is "Coltrane, a local kid who's cute as a little boy and, in his 
midteens, sprouts into a cool, thoughtful, slim and quite attractive
 guy. In a typical fictional film, it would normally require three 
different young actors to portray the same character over this age
 range; to see this one young man inhabit all these stages of Mason's 
life is unique and quite astonishing to behold.

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The New York Times' Manohla Dargis compares Boyhood to the rest of Linklater's catalog: "His films are sometimes mischaracterized as having no plot, perhaps because they may seem so when compared with aggressively incident-jammed mainstream movies. One of the fascinating things about Boyhood is that a lot happens — there are parties and fights, laughter and tears — but all these events take place in a distinctly quotidian register and without the usual filmmaking prodding and cues. Instead, the movie ebbs and flows from year to year, interspersed with temporal signposts like a Britney Spears song or a Nintendo Wii."

The Guardian's Xan Brooks called Boyhood "far and away the best film I've seen at Sundance. It's lovingly assembled and acted with such grace and ease that it scarcely looks like acting at all. Midway through the film, I found myself wondering whether I'd ever seen anything remotely resembling it before. Except that of course I have; we all have. Simply look at your own family; it's happening all over. People screw up and make good. They grow bum-fluff beards and fall in love and there's never any resolution, just more full-speed forward motion."

Time's Richard Corliss says the film has "seductive magic," as "watching it gives viewers a protective, possessive feeling about Mason. We have the intense rooting interest of surrogate parents, or doting aunts and uncles on an annual family reunion. We hope that Mason will survive his mother's broken marriage and later involvement with other men. We want him to grow out of that bad haircut, overcome his siege of acne, emerge intact from the heartbreak of first love. A home movie of a fictional home life, an epic assembled from vignettes, Boyhood shimmers with unforced reality. It shows how an ordinary life can be reflected in an extraordinary movie."

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New York Daily News' Joe Neumaier also brings up Linklater's other films and says, "The movie may sound like an arthouse stunt, but it's so much more than that. Linklater is an effortless, genial auteur, and his passions are woven through 'Dazed and Confused,' 'School of Rock' and the 'Before Sunrise' trilogy. Here, his mellow groove becomes an everyday rhythm."