Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Linklater|
|Written by||Richard Linklater|
|Edited by||Sandra Adair|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Box office||$44.5 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. Shot intermittently over the course of a 12-year period from 2002 to 2014, Boyhood depicts the adolescence of Mason Evans, Jr. (Coltrane) from ages six to eighteen as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents (Arquette and Hawke). Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei plays Mason's sister, Samantha.
The project began filming without a completed script, with only basic plot points and the ending written initially. Linklater developed the script throughout production, writing the next year's portion of the film after rewatching the previous year's footage. He incorporated changes he saw in each actor into the script, while also allowing all major actors to participate in the writing process by incorporating their life experiences into their characters' stories.
Boyhood 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, ingenuity, and scope. The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Arquette. It also received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for Arquette, which she won.
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 a job.
In 2004, Mason's father, Mason Sr., (Ethan Hawke) visits Houston and takes the children bowling. He promises to spend more time with his kids. When Mason Sr. drops the children off at home, he argues with Olivia and leaves while Mason and Samantha watch helplessly from a window. Olivia takes Mason to one of her classes, introducing him to her professor, Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella). Mason sees Olivia and Bill flirt with each other.
In 2005, Olivia and Bill have married and blended their two families, including Bill's two children from a previous marriage. They share experiences such as playing video games and attending a midnight release 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. Bill becomes 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.
In 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 moves in with Jim, 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 solo 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, a drunk Jim confronts Mason about his late hours. Olivia leaves 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 2013, during Mason's senior year in high school, he has a painful breakup with Sheena, wins the silver medal 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 meets Samantha and Mason for lunch and asks them to sort through their possessions. As Mason prepares to leave his mother's new apartment for college, Olivia breaks down, saying she is disillusioned by how fast life has flown by, and claims there is nothing left in her life but her death. At Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Mason moves into his dorm room, and meets his new roommate Dalton, his girlfriend Barb and her roommate, Nicole. Barb gives Mason psilocybin mushrooms (emulsified in chocolate), which he takes. He goes hiking with the group at Big Bend Ranch State Park, where Nicole and Mason talk about seizing the moment... Maybe people should actually let the moment seize them.
In May 2002, 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 US$200,000 per year, or $2.4 million over the 12-year shooting period.
Linklater hired the seven-year-old 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 Texan insurance agents who divorced and remarried—and Arquette's character is based on her mother, who resumed her education later in life and became a psychotherapist.
Despite the unconventional screenwriting process, Linklater stated that he had a general storyline in mind, and that the actors did not change the general direction of the story: "People think I asked Ellar, 'What did you do in school the other day? Let’s make a scene about that!' That never happened. The time we spent together was me just gauging where he was at in his life—what his concerns were and what he was doing. Then I would think, maybe we could move the camping trip up, and we can do this or that."
Scripts for certain scenes were sometimes finished the night prior to shooting; according to Hawke, the discussion about 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, on varying dates, to film for three or four days. The production team spent approximately two months in pre-production, and one month in post-production each year. 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 seven 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 time-lapse photography of a human being.
In the early years of making the film, Linklater used various working titles, such as The Twelve-Year Project and The Twelve-Year Movie, as well as Boyhood. After completing shooting in mid-2013, Linklater named it 12 Years. Worried 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 was allowed an unusual level of freedom with the production, never having to show IFC the work as it progressed.
Costume Designer Kari Perkins had to review each year's footage to ensure there were no accidental repetitions and to create a flow to the costumes. 
Boyhood premiered theatrically on July 11, 2014, in a limited release in four 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's wide release occurred on August 15, opening in 771 theaters and grossing $1,992,448, with an average of $2,584 per theater and ranking #11. The film's widest release in the U.S. was 775 theaters. The film ultimately earned $25,341,159 domestically and $19,143,000 internationally for a total of $44,484,159, well above its $4 million production budget.
Boyhood received near-unanimous acclaim from film critics. It holds a "certified fresh" score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 261 reviews, with an average rating of 9.3/10. The critical consensus states, "Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition." On Metacritic, the film has a full score of 100 out of 100, based on 50 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. Both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes listed Boyhood as the best-reviewed film of 2014.
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.
In her review for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis called Boyhood a "model of cinematic realism", saying that its realism was "jolting" and "so brilliantly realized and understated that it would be easy to overlook." A. O. Scott, also writing for The New York Times, called Boyhood the best film of 2014, saying that he could not think of any film that had affected him the way Boyhood had in his 15 years as a professional film critic. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also named Boyhood the best movie of the year, calling it the year's "biggest emotional powerhouse." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called 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, compared Linklater's film with Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee's memoir, Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life. Many critics singled out Patricia Arquette's performance for praise. Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle said that watching Arquette was "like watching a generation's hopes and struggles, presented by an actress with a fullness of emotion, and yet with utter matter-of-factness." Michael Phillips, writing for The Chicago Tribune, lauded Arquette's "lack of pretense or affectation as a performer." Boyhood also earned the admiration of other filmmakers and artists. Director Christopher Nolan named Boyhood as his favorite film of 2014, calling it "extraordinary." Writer-director Mike Leigh, while accepting a fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2015, called it "the definitive independent film." Writer Joyce Carol Oates tweeted her support, saying: "It is rare that a film so mimics the rhythms and texture of actual life as Boyhood. Such seeming spontaneity is a very high art." Poet and critic Dan Chiasson wrote in a contribution to The New York Review of Books: "This is a great film, the greatest American movie I have ever seen in a theater. It is great for what we see, but it is even greater for its way of making real what we cannot see, or for suggesting that what we cannot yet see we might one day see." According to Canadian philosopher Howard Adelman, "[Boyhood] is Huckleberry Finn for the twenty-first century, for it is only Mason Jr. who retains his honesty, integrity and sense of decency throughout ... a masterful movie not to be missed."
Other 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." Richard Brody of The New Yorker listed the film at the top of a year-end list he called "The Negative Ten", a list of films with "significant merit", but that also "occluded the view toward the year’s most accomplished and daringly original work." Imran Siddiquee lamented in The Atlantic that the film's main character "lives 12 years in America without ever having or overhearing a significant conversation about race. Not on TV, not at school, not with his parents, nor with any of his friends."
Boyhood appeared on more critics' annual "best-of" lists in 2014 than any other film, including the most first-place votes. According to CriticsTop10.com, it was included on 536 lists and topped 189 of them -- both records by that site's count.
- 1st - Marjorie Baumgarten - The Austin Chronicle
- 1st - Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian
- 1st - Justin Chang - Variety
- 1st - Simon Crook - Empire
- 1st - A. A. Dowd - The A.V. Club
- 1st - David Edelstein - New York
- 1st - Bill Goodykoontz - The Arizona Republic
- 1st - Stephen Holden - The New York Times
- 1st - Ann Hornaday - The Washington Post
- 1st - Peter Howell - The Toronto Star
- 1st - Eric Kohn - Indiewire
- 1st - Mick LaSalle - The San Francisco Chronicle
- 1st - Bob Mondello - National Public Radio
- 1st - Joe Morgenstern - The Wall Street Journal
- 1st - Andrew O'Hehir - Salon
- 1st - Michael Phillips - Chicago Tribune
- 1st - Claudia Puig - USA Today
- 1st - Richard Roeper - Chicago Sun-Times
- 1st - Joshua Rothkopf - Time Out New York
- 1st - A. O. Scott - The New York Times
- 1st - Betsy Sharkey - The Los Angeles Times
- 1st - Sight & Sound contributors - British Film Institute
- 1st - Peter Travers - Rolling Stone
- 2nd - Tom Brook - British Broadcasting Corporation
- 2nd - Robbie Collin - The Telegraph
- 2nd - Richard Corliss - Time
- 2nd - Chris Nashawaty - Entertainment Weekly
- 2nd - Kyle Smith - New York Post
- 2nd - Mark Kermode - BBC Radio Five Live
- 3rd - Rex Reed - The New York Observer
- 4th - James Berardinelli - Reelviews
- 5th - Richard Lawson - Vanity Fair
- 5th - Todd McCarthy - The Hollywood Reporter
- 6th - Christopher Orr - The Atlantic
- 7th - Peter Rainer - The Christian Science Monitor
- 9th - Lou Lumenick - New York Post
- Not ranked - Manohla Dargis - The New York Times
- Not ranked - David Denby - The New Yorker
- Not ranked - Steven Rea - The Philadelphia Inquirer
- Not ranked - Dana Stevens - Slate
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, Lorelei, 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 the 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 became available on Digital HD on December 9, 2014, and was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 6, 2015.
Boyhood earned dozens of accolades, including top prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the London Film Critics' Circle. It received both the Golden Globe Award and the British Academy Film Award for Best Film. At the 87th Academy Awards, it received its sole Oscar for Supporting Actress.
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