Boyhood | 12 years in the making, Richard Linklater’s intimate epic is a cinematic masterpiece

Boyhood Ellar Coltrane as Mason Evans Jr

Last night’s Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress winner at the Critics’ Circle awards and frontrunner in the race for this year’s Oscars, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is one of the most remarkable films made this century: a simple coming-of-age tale that gains extraordinary richness and depth from the way in which it was made.

Shooting for a few days each year over a period of 12 years, using the same actors, Linklater shows us the childhood, adolescence and young manhood of a boy from a broken Texas home. From the age of six to his first day of college, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows up before our eyes, while his mother (Patricia Arquette), father (Ethan Hawke) and older sister (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) take their own emotional journeys.

Mason goes through major rites of passage but it is the small details, the rhythms and texture of ordinary life, that prove most telling, giving the film some of the cumulative impact of Michael Apted’s 7 Up! series of documentaries. A period film shot in the present, Boyhood also provides us with vivid cultural snapshots from the recent past – including queuing in robes for the latest Harry Potter novel and Obama’s 2008 election campaign.

Best known for his Before trilogy of films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight), Linklater took a giant bet when he chose the six-year-old Coltrane to play his protagonist, but his gamble paid off handsomely. His young star is unaffected and captivating, and gets superb support from Arquette and Hawke. Compelling and affecting throughout its near three-hour running time, this intimate epic is a cinematic masterpiece.

Certificate 15. Runtime 165 mins. Director Richard Linklater.

Released on Blu-ray & DVD by Universal Pictures UK on Monday 19th January.