Sometimes plenty of drama and discovery happen during the regular course of growing up.  Writer/director Richard Linklater explores this with surprising verisimilitude in Boyhood, a movie that was shot over twelve years with the same cast.

Boyhood is mainly the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), who go from 6 to 18 during the course of the movie.  They're raised by their single mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette), who's trying to balance raising them, working, and going to college.  Their dad Mason Sr. is the "fun" parent who takes his kids camping and to baseball games; he also never seems to have a steady job.  And along the way Mason and Samantha grow and deal with everything from friends to romance to adolescent philosophy ("what is it all about?) to moving repeatedly, whether due to work or Olivia's unfortunate tendency to get involved with abusive, alcoholic men.  Some things are serious (like deciding what direction their lives will take), some are comic (Mason Sr. having the "sex talk" with Samantha), and some seem critical (losing friends, dating) but are quickly forgotten.
There's no grand drama or conflict in Boyhood, just the regular course of a boy and his family exploring who they are (while avoiding homework -- a consistent feature through all ages) and what they'll become.  As such, Boyhood has a quiet magic to it, a very genuine feeling of real life without any contrived situations or forced drama.   The cast is very good (especially Patricia Arquette, as the mother who knows the doesn't have all the answers but struggles on anyway) and Linklater's direction has a tremendous feeling of naturalness.  The movie is a little long -- at several points near the end I was ready for things to wrap up, but it kept going -- but Boyhood is a very, very nice exception to the standard movie drama by focusing not on effects or drama, but on the complexity of everyday life.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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