Of course, it had to be Richard Linklater, one of the finest, more interesting directors out there, and the man behind the superb trilogy of "Before Sunrise" / "Before Sunset" / "Before Midnight", where he captured the story of two lovers over an 18-year span, each film catching up with them at nine year intervals. Linklater had used the risky equation real time passage = screen time passage and already excelled. In "Boyhood" he condenses the story of a family through 12 years but in just one movie. We follow fictional characters interact and grow in year-to-year transitions over 165 minutes of real time. A fascinating experiment and filming experience.
But as exciting and risky the filmmaking experiment is, the movie wouldn't deserve being qualified as a masterpiece just because of it. No, if "Boyhood" deserves to be forever praised is thanks to Linklater's eye to capture time's passing by through the eyes of Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane), a 6 years-old-kid at the beginning of the movie and a confused 18 year-old teenager entering university at the end of the film. His life serves the American director to develop an incredibly brilliant coming-of-age story. One that is unique, as we see the actors aging while their tale also evolves. The form (the physical transformations of the characters) enhances their portrayals of the roles, so the transition from childhood to young adults is offered on screen like never before.
The result is deeply affecting to the viewer, as "Boyhood" tells it all: through road trips, holidays, wasted hours at home, classes, parties, dinners, birthdays and other special days we feel the little moments of joy and learning that conform life, the fears, the doubts, the struggle against circumstances, the clashes with reality, the triumphs, the let-downs, the tenderness, the laughs, the heart-aches, the difficulties of communication, and the looks & silences that reveal more that any conversation. Even the soundtrack (with Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Dylan, Wilco) fits perfectly. Along with Mason Jr. we see his older sister Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter), his relentless mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and more sporadically but also crucial in his evolution, his separated dad Mason (Ethan Hawke). The bounds with each of them are extraordinary brought to the screen. And in my opinion, with maybe the exception of Samantha, who seems to disappear somewhat within the film as she grows, the performances of Coltrane, Arquette and Hawke are mesmerizing.
The viewer becomes the most welcomed guest ever, being allowed to know a family in a way that makes any other movie pale by comparison. As I'm reading some opinions saying there's not a lot going on the film I'm just going to say: go to hell. Maybe your life has been an incredible adventure, but Linklater scores a gigantic goal for just picturing this family life without adding nothing too fancy or overblown, rejecting melodrama, or only including it in tiny little pieces (no spoiling), as every human being experiences. Instead, here's everyday life, with ups and downs and mostly, in-betweens. A simple story that is so blatantly relatable for the spectator it moves you in a way very few movies can. What a lesson. What a movie. What a piece of art. Ordinary life is fragile, fleeting, and worth living. Every life is a masterpiece.