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Boyhood (2014)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/6/2015

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/30/2014

When I first saw Halloween, I was immediately enthralled (and terrified) by the film. Later on, I would learn about the making of the film and garner details on the lack of budget and the brief shooting schedule. Acquiring this information instilled an even deeper appreciation for the film (and the fact that it was not only completed, but became a classic). So, this raises the question, does background information on a movie affect the viewer's opinion of the movie? Does knowing that the filmmakers had to overcome some sort of adversity make us more forgiving of a film? Or what about the converse -- Are we harder on big-budget blockbusters? This notion came to mind while watching Boyhood, a monumental project from Director Richard Linklater.

Boyhood follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from ages 6 to 18. He lives with his Mom (Patricia Arquette) and his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Mason's estranged Dad (Ethan Hawke), has recently moved back to the area after spending time working in Alaska. Mason and Samantha shuttle back and forth between their parents, visiting their Dad on weekends, while Mom is involved in a series of abusive relationships. Mason is sometimes forced to move and change schools. He creates some friendships, and as he grows, he becomes a curious young man who develops (no pun intended) an interest in photography. While Mom may not be lucky with men, she is determined to better herself, as she works towards a psychology degree. Through this, Mason experiences the many highs and lows of life, and observes the challenges of being a family.

As a teenager, I began to seek out alternative and independent films, partly from a desire to see something truly different and partly from a drive to be quirky. The problem with this was that many indie films were "Slice of Life" movies, which were character studies that often involved very little (if any) plot or story. Boyhood is not a "Slice of Life" movie -- It is a "Loaf of Life" movie. This is a three-hour character study which takes snapshots of twelve years of a boy's life. We meet his family and friends, and observe the different locations and situations in which he finds himself as time goes on. From school to friends to girls, the movie touches on some milestones in Mason's life.

On the one had, Mason leads a very tumultuous life, as he moves several times due to his Mom's relationships and he sees just how cruel people can be. But, on the other hand, Mason is often just an observes life, and truth be told, not much happens to him. Therefore, we simply observers as well. We watch Mason's going through his life, but there is a distinct absence of emotion here. Whether or not it is intentional, Linklater is able to create some suspense, as we wait for Mason to get in trouble or do something which hurts himself or his family, but this never comes. Mason is simply a rather bland, average kid who experiences some undeniably bad things, but nothing truly extraordinary.

There is no argument that Linklater should be applauded for undertaking such a monumental task, as so many things could have easily derailed this project (funding, death of a cast member, lack of interest in completing it, etc.). And kudos to the cast for coming back year-after-year to help fulfill the vision. Few would have the perseverance to finish what has to be one of the longest shooting schedules ever. And, Linklater has done a great job of capturing some moments of what childhood can be like. But, the film is missing true drama and the lack of a clear narrative really hurts it. In addition, the acting is inconsistent and there are times where it feels as if the passage of time has hindered the performers from rediscovering their characters. Knowing the amount of work which went into it, I really wanted to like Boyhood, but I found most of it to be boring and unengaging. And not that it ever had me, but it really lost me during the last five minutes. You go and find out where the cafeteria is!

Boyhood does nothing to glamorize working in a fish restaurant on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 27 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Linklater shot the entire project on film and there is no sudden shifts in the quality of the visuals as time progresses, which is a compliment to this transfer. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is average. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a quiet drama, we don't get many dynamic audio effects here. There are a few noticeable stereo and surround sound effects, mostly when a scene is taking place outdoors, but most of the audio comes from the center.

The Boyhood Blu-ray Disc contains only two extras. "The 12-Year Project" (19 minutes) is a making-of featurette which includes archival and modern comments from Linklater, who gives his views on the movie. We also hear from the cast. We are privy to on-set footage from various years of shooting. Linklater talks about how his own life influenced the story and how shooting on film was very important to the process. There is some interesting info here, but it wasn't the overview of the project which I'd hoped for it to be. Linklater actually understates the enormity of the movie and it can't have been as simple and laid-back as he makes it seem. "Q&A with Richard Linklater and the Cast" (53 minutes) was recorded in Los Angeles in June, 2014 following a screening of the film. Linklater and the four principal actors take the stage and answer a series of questions about the movie.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long