Best Picture Profile: Boyhood

As we come closer to the Academy Awards on February 22nd, we’ll be posting short profiles of each Best Picture nominee, attempting, in our own ways, to not only sum up what the movie is about, but why we believe it scored one of the eight coveted nominations, and why it could possibly take home the big prize come Oscar night. Enjoy!

What is there left to even say about Boyhood? This singular, original, hugely emotional film has been the talk of the awards circuit since it came out last fall, and it deserves all the praise it gets. Director Richard Linklater spends the better part of three hours making the small feel enormous, giving voice to families around the world, and, well, literally making time fly right before your eyes. This isn’t just the best picture of this year, but a movie for the ages.

I know that all of this sounds a bit hyperbolic, and maybe it is. After all, it’s just a movie, and I am aware that 7-Up already existed – but this is a very different story. Working off of a loose script, Linklater takes the 7-Up model and moves it to the fictional realm, following a family of his own creation over a real 12-year period. Casting was clearly important, and he got it right – Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Linklater’s own charismatic daughter Lorelai round out the cast, with Ellar Coltrane as Mason, the boy in question. Linklater clearly has a good sense of presence, because Coltrane doesn’t fade away as the years go by. Rather, he lights up the frame as he ages – whatever Coltrane wants to do next, it’s safe to say that he’ll have plenty of choices. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Arquette and Hawke, Mason’s separated parents, as well. Arquette, the obvious front-runner to win Best Supporting Actress this year, is astounding, to say the least, and provides the strong beating heart of the entire film, especially while working her way through a string of truly horrible men – Arquette is consistently as heartbreaking as she is heartwarming. Hawke deserves plenty of praise too – as Mason’s father who always tries his best, even when he does fall short, he bucks the “absent father” trend and portrays a dad who truly cares.

The film is long, as it deserves to be, but it never feels that way. Linklater doesn’t bother with title cards telling us that Mason has turned 7, or 8, or so on, and wisely just lets time speak for itself. This can be disorienting, for sure – when Coltrane is younger, it’s hard to tell whether Mason is aging, or your own eyesight is going – but it keeps the momentum moving along. Before you know it, Mason has grown up; his mother and father have settled; and he has to start finding his own way in the world.

Boyhood is a triumph, and my money is on it for the big prize. (As for whether or not Arquette will take home an Oscar on Sunday, you can, at this point, set your watch by it.) It is at once so specific and so universal – there is at least one thing in this film that everybody can relate to on some deep, personal level, whether it’s a song specific to one year, or a childhood emotion you’ve since forgotten about. In making one of the most ambitious film projects to date, Linklater ended up with a film that is so beautiful in its simplicity – after all, you’re just watching life pass by.

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