Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Linklater|
|Produced by||Richard Linklater
|Written by||Richard Linklater|
|Edited by||Sandra Adair|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Running time||165 minutes|
|Box office||$43.2 million|
Boyhood is a 2014 American coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater and starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke. The film was shot intermittently over an eleven-year period from May 2002 to October 2013, showing the growth of a young boy and his older sister to adulthood.
The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically on July 11, 2014. The film also competed in the main competition section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, where Linklater won the Silver Bear for Best Director. It was declared a landmark film by many notable critics, who praised its direction, acting, and scope.
In 2002, six-year-old Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) live with their single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) in Texas. Mason overhears Olivia arguing with her boyfriend, saying she has no free time. Olivia moves the family so she can attend the University of Houston, complete her degree, and get professional work.
In 2004, Mason's father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), visits Houston and takes the children bowling and promises to spend more time with them. When he drops them off at home, he argues with Olivia while Mason and Samantha watch from a window. Olivia takes Mason to one of her classes, introducing him to her professor, Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella). In 2005, Olivia and Bill marry and blend their two families, including Bill's two children from a previous marriage. They share experiences such as playing video games and attending a midnight sale of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In 2006, the children bond with Mason Sr. as he takes them out for a day in Houston, culminating in a Houston Astros game and a sleepover at his house with his roommate Jimmy. Olivia continues her education and is initially supportive of Bill's strict parenting style, which includes many chores for the children and a forced cutting of Mason's long hair. However, by 2007, Bill has become abusive as alcoholism takes over his life. When he assaults Olivia and endangers the children, Olivia moves the family to a friend's house and files for divorce.
In 2008, Mason Sr. learns that Samantha has a boyfriend and talks to her and Mason about contraception. He and Mason go camping at Pedernales Falls State Park and bond over music, Star Wars, and Mason's blossoming interest in girls. By 2009, Mason and Samantha have grown into their new lives in San Marcos, a town close to Austin. Mason is bullied by other students at school and teased on a camping trip, but also starts receiving attention from girls. Olivia teaches psychology at college and marries Jim (Brad Hawkins), a student and veteran of the Afghanistan/Iraq War.
In 2010, by his fifteenth birthday, Mason has experimented with marijuana and alcohol. Mason Sr., remarried and with a baby, takes Mason and Samantha to visit his wife's parents. He gives Mason a suit and a mix CD of Beatles songs; Mason's step-grandparents give him a personalized Bible and a vintage shotgun. Mason becomes interested in photography.
In 2011, Mason is lectured by his photography teacher, who sees his potential but is disappointed in his lack of ambition. Mason attends a party and meets Sheena, who becomes his girlfriend. After Mason arrives home late one night from a party, Jim, who has been drinking heavily, confronts Mason about his late hours. Olivia later divorces Jim.
In 2012, Mason and Sheena visit Samantha at the University of Texas at Austin, where they share their hopes and fears about college, staying up late to watch the sun rise. They are caught sleeping together in Samantha's dorm room by her roommate.
In Mason's senior year in 2013, he has a painful breakup with Sheena. He also wins silver in a state photography contest and is awarded college scholarship money. Mason's family throws him a graduation party and toasts his success. Mason Sr. gives him advice about his breakup. Planning to sell the house, Olivia asks the children to sort through their possessions.
As Mason prepares to leave his mother's new apartment for college in mid-2013, Olivia breaks down, saying she is disillusioned by how fast life has flown by. At Sul Ross State University, Mason moves into his dorm room, and meets his new roommate, his roommate's girlfriend, Barb, who gives him drugs, and her roommate, Nicole. He goes hiking with the three of them at Big Bend National Park, where Nicole and Mason talk about seizing the moment; Mason agrees that "the moment seizes us".
- Ellar Coltrane as Mason Evans Jr.
- Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans
- Lorelei Linklater as Samantha Evans
- Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans Sr.
- Libby Villari as Catherine: Olivia's mother
- Marco Perella as Bill Welbrock: Olivia's second husband
- Jamie Howard as Mindy Welbrock: Bill's daughter
- Andrew Villarreal as Randy Welbrock: Bill's son
- Brad Hawkins as Jim: Olivia's third husband
- Jenni Tooley as Annie: Mason Sr.'s second wife
- Richard Andrew Jones as Annie's father
- Karen Jones as Annie's mother
- Bill Wise as Steve Evans: Mason Sr.'s brother
- Zoe Graham as Sheena: Mason Jr.'s girlfriend
- Charlie Sexton as Jimmy: Mason Sr.'s roommate and friend
- Barbara Chisholm as Carol: Olivia's friend
- Cassidy Johnson as Abby: Carol's daughter
- Richard Robichaux as Mason's boss
- Steven Chester Prince as Ted: Olivia's boyfriend
- Tom McTigue as Mr. Turlington: Mason Jr.'s photography teacher
- Will Harris as Sam's boyfriend at college
- Andrea Chen as Sam's college roommate
- Maximillian McNamara as Dalton: Mason Jr.'s college roommate
- Taylor Weaver as Barb: Dalton's girlfriend
- Jessi Mechler as Nicole: Barb's roommate
In May 2002, director and screenwriter Richard Linklater said that he would begin shooting an untitled film in his home city of Houston that summer. He planned to assemble the cast and crew for a few weeks' filming annually for 12 years. He said: "I've long wanted to tell the story of a parent–child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college. But the dilemma is that kids change so much that it is impossible to cover that much ground. And I am totally ready to adapt the story to whatever he is going through." IFC, the film's distributor, committed to a film budget of $200,000 per year, or $2.4 million over the 12-year shooting period.
Linklater hired the seven-year-old Ellar Coltrane to play the boy. The cast could not sign contracts for the film due to the De Havilland Law, which makes it illegal to contract someone for more than seven years of work. Linklater told Hawke that he would have to finish the film if Linklater died.
Boyhood began filming without a completed script. Linklater had prepared each character's basic plot points, and the ending including the final shot, but otherwise wrote the script for the next year's filming after rewatching the previous year's footage, incorporating the changes he saw in each actor. All major actors participated in the writing process, contributing their life experiences; for example, Hawke's character is based on his and Linklater's fathers—both Texas insurance agents who divorced and remarried—and Arquette's character is based on her mother, who resumed her education and became a psychiatrist. Scripts for certain scenes were sometimes finished the night prior to shooting; according to Hawke, the discussion of the possibility of additional Star Wars films is "the only honest-to-god improvised moment in the movie". The cast and crew gathered once or twice each year, at varying dates, to film for three or four days. When Arquette became the lead on the TV series Medium, she filmed her scenes over weekends.
Hawke said in 2013:
It's Tolstoy-esque in scope. I thought the Before series was the most unique thing I would ever be a part of, but Rick has engaged me in something even more strange. Doing a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls, and have it be the same actor—to watch his voice and body morph—it's a little bit like timelapse photography of a human being.
The film had the working title The Twelve-Year Project until mid-2013, when Linklater named it 12 Years. Worrying that the name might be confused with 12 Years a Slave (2013), he renamed it Boyhood. Hawke was amazed that the producers "still had their job" at the film's completion despite "[having] to hide a couple hundred thousand dollars a year for over a decade while we slowly made this movie." Despite the risks, Linklater had an unusual level of freedom with the production, never having to show IFC the work in progress.
The film premiered theatrically on July 11, 2014 in a limited release in 4 theaters in North America and grossed $387,618 with an average of $77,524 per theater ranking #19 at the box office. The film expanded the next week to 34 theaters and grossed $1,170,217 with an average of $34,418 per theater. The film had its Wide release on August 15, opening in 771 theaters and grossing $1,992,448, with an average of $2,584 per theater and ranking #11 at the box office. The film's widest release in the U.S. was 775 theaters. As of December 2014, it has earned $24,050,000 in North America and $19,143,000 internationally for a total of $43,193,000, well above its $4 million production budget.
Boyhood received near-universal acclaim from film critics, with a "certified fresh" score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 213 reviews, with an average rating of 9.3 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition." The film has a full score of 100 on Metacritic based on 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". It is the highest rated of all films reviewed upon their original release on the site. It also holds the highest number of reviews for a film with a score of 100, and is among the highest-scoring films ever reviewed.
The praise for Boyhood extended beyond the anglosphere. A collection of 25 French critiques on AlloCiné, including those from Le Monde and Cahiers du Cinéma, indicates near-unanimous approval, with an average score of 4.0 out of 5. The international film magazine Sight & Sound named it the best film of 2014 after polling an international group of 112 film critics.
Halfway through 2014, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone named Boyhood the best movie of the year so far; in his review, Travers awarded the movie a 4/4 (the first perfect score he had given in 2014). Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 5/5 stars, calling it "one of the greatest films of the decade". Richard Roeper gave the film an A+, calling it one of the greatest films he had ever seen. Wai Chee Dimock, writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, compares Linklater's film with Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee's memoir, Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life.
Other film critics reacted less positively to the film. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan described it as "at best, OK" and one whose "animating idea is more interesting than its actual satisfactions." Sam Adams of Indiewire argued that the unanimous praise for Boyhood is bad for film criticism, as it tends to marginalize the analysis of critics who disagree with the majority. Adams argued that masterpieces are made "by careful scrutiny" and not "by unanimous praise."
Boyhood appeared on several critics' lists of the best films of 2014:
Yeah, we've got a ton of behind the scenes stuff. We made this in the era where everyone has a digital camera so we unearthed an interview from year one with Ellar, Lorelai, Patricia and myself, Patricia interviewed me in 2002. I hadn't seen this since we shot it, Ellar had forgotten quite a bit of it but he got to see himself as a wide-eyed six year old. For people who like the movie, I think there will be a lot of cool little treasures.
On August 21, Variety reported that Paramount Home Media Distribution had acquired U.S. home entertainment rights for DVD, Blu-ray and digital distribution. IFC Films will retain VOD and EST sales as part of the deal. The film will be available on Digital HD on December 9, 2014, and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 6, 2015.
Awards and accolades
- Antoine Doinel – In five films, French filmmaker François Truffaut followed the fictional life of Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud), beginning in 1959, with following films for 1962, 1968, 1970 and 1979.
- The Children of Golzow – a series of documentary films following the lives of several people from 1961 to 2007.
- Up series – a series of documentary films that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old.
- Hoop Dreams - an American documentary directed by Steve James that followed the lives of two African-American high school basketball players over five years
- Perspective – an episodic drama film, started in 2012, from Canada directed by B. P. Paquette and starring Stéphane Paquette, Patricia Tedford, and Pandora Topp in a love triangle.
- The Bill Douglas Trilogy – autobiographical series based on the filmmaker's childhood, all starring amateur child actor Stephen Archibald and made between 1972–78.
- The Apu Trilogy – Over the course of three films, Satyajit Ray tells the story of Apu as he grows from child to adult.
- Everyday – British film directed by Michael Winterbottom about five years in the lives of a prisoner and his family, filmed between 2007 and 2012.
- Dimension - Abandoned film by Lars von Trier, which was going to have been filmed in three-minute segments in a 30 year period between years 1991 to 2024, but von Trier abandoned the project on the late 1990s.
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- Official website
- Boyhood at the Internet Movie Database
- Boyhood at AllMovie
- Boyhood at Box Office Mojo
- Boyhood at Metacritic
- Boyhood at Rotten Tomatoes