Give thanks to Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, who sneaks out gems from Slacker and Dazed and Confused to Bernie and the Before trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight) with such understated regularity that ward-givers hardly take notice. Screw them. Linklater is a true poet of the everyday.
The premise here is deceptively simple: Folow a boy from Texas, a child of divorce, as he grows from ages seven to 18, from kid stuff to college. Documentarian Michael Apted is doing something similar in his ongoing Up series. But Linklater is crafting a movie, a fiction featuring actors and a script. Mason, played by the remarkable Ellar Coltrane, interacts with dad Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), mom (Patricia Arquette) and sister Samantha (a sass queen luminously acted by Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter).
Shot in 39 days and covering 12 years, Boyhood flows seamlessly over two hours and 40 minutes as we watch characters age, argue, reconcile, mature or not. Hawke excels as a mostly absentee dad, while Arquette brings a poignant urgency to a mother hobbled by her knack for bringing home the wrong men. But the film belongs to Coltrane, especially as he shows us mason coping with the perils of pursuing a career in photography and his scholl's hottest girl (Zoe Graham). Linklater never overplays his hand with tear-jerking or dramatic excess. He knows the boy's heart, and in the process he captures ours.