Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which premiered at Sundance last night, is an entrancing, one-of-a-kind act of dramatic storytelling: a beautiful stunt of a movie. It was shot over a period of 12 years, beginning in 2002, and it takes two hours and 40 minutes to tell the story of a boy named Mason as he grows up in Texas. The hook of the movie — and if it is a stunt, it’s a visionary one — is that Mason is played throughout by a young actor named Ellar Coltrane, who we literally watch grow up, year after year, on camera. That makes the film a kind of cousin to Michael Apted’s series of Up documentaries, but I’m not sure if this sort of thing has ever been attempted in a work of cinematic fiction before.
Linklater, of course, is a storyteller who reveres the art of naturalism, and Boyhood, though it’s a genuine movie, full of bustlingly staged scenes and performances and motifs and arcs, has the feel of a staged documentary about a fictional character. It’s lively and boisterous and very entertaining to watch, because stuff keeps happening, but the film also rolls forward in an almost Zen manner, so that everything that occurs — an angry family dinner, a camping trip, a haircut, an afternoon of videogames — carries the same wide-eyed, you are here significance. The film has that deadpan Linklater tone of slacker haphazardness, but you could also say that it’s almost Joycean in its appreciation of the scruffy magic of everyday life. READ FULL STORY