Childhood has always been a tricky thing to capture on film for commercial release - whether it's child actors on TV aging faster than their characters or movies that seek to portray the life of a character through various stages of their youth. The years between birth and late adolescence are when people do the most amount of changing - both internally and externally - and often the only way to represent that change on film is to use different actors for different stages of life.
Director Richard Linklater managed to overcome that challenge with Boyhood, a coming-of-age drama that was filmed over the course of 12 years and documented the early life of a boy called Mason, played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane. Filming began when Coltrane was seven years old and concluded just before he turned nineteen, and as he aged on-screen so too did his co-stars, including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as Mason's parents and Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, playing Mason's older sister.
Hawke has described the film as being "like timelapse photography of a human being," and comparisons could be made to actual timelapse photographic projects of children growing up, such as Frans Hofmeester's Portrait of Lotte. Boyhood, however, is less about the simple visual spectacle and more about capturing life's mini-drama's at various stages of childhood. As Linklater explains in a new featurette about the remarkable making of Boyhood, it could just as easily have been called "fatherhood" or "motherhood" since all of the characters change and evolve over the course of its running time.
Boyhood recently scored several Golden Globes nominations, including Best Drama, Best Director and Best Screenplay, and it has also been submitted for Oscar consideration by IFC Films. Linklater's project scored universally high praise from critics with ratings of 100% on Metacritic and 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's certainly a landmark in the history of filmmaking, even if the story it tells is only that of the average boy growing up and facing life's small dramas.
It might be argued that Boyhood's success has more to do with its timelapse hook than its story - as one reviewer put it, "Any film that takes twelve years to shoot should be commended for its stamina alone" - and it might not be a film for everyone, but as a reflective piece on Linklater's own experience of growing up (both as a boy and as a grown man) it definitely looks like one of the more interesting films of 2014.
Boyhood is available now on Digital HD and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from January 6th, 2015.