Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 165 Minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2016

Life doesn’t give you bumpers.”

Film ***1/2

Watching a life unfold on film has rarely seemed so potent, at least in a non-documentary form, than it has in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. A project that was twelve years in the making, Linklater took upon a bold task in showcasing an actual actor age on screen from age 6 to 18. That notion alone places it as a huge accomplishment in modern filmmaking.

What it boiled down to was that during each summer beginning in 2002, Linklater would shoot a number of scenes with his cast in his native Texas. And so what ends up on screen is about as real as any fictional film can deliver, which is actors naturally aging as time progresses in the story. It really does lend a unique touch as a narrative device that no film has done before, and will likely ever do again.

The real showcase here is the aging of actor Ellar Coltrane, who we first see as a preschooler and by the film’s end, we’ll see as a freshman in college. And believe me when I say that what you see is a life unfolding before your eyes, as Mason (Coltrane) endures all the joys and pitfalls of growing up. From the innocent child years to the utterly confusing mess that is a normal teen life, we see Mason endure it all.

His parents have long been divorced, with the mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), raising him and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) mostly despite frequent visits from the dad, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). Young Mason also endures the added bonus of living with a single mother who has to move the family between towns in search of a better job and more affordable living arrangements That also brings with it possible new suitors for Olivia, the first of which is with a college professor that takes a turn for disaster when alcohol and abuse figure in.

And with the entering of teen life, along comes all of the elements that end up changing one’s entire perspective of life. That of peer pressure, talking to the opposite sex, the first job, and the biggest one of all; figuring out what you will do with your life. Through Mason’s eyes, we the viewer are really feeling what it’s like to grow up all over again...and if you find yourself relating to his experiences, Boyhood becomes an even more surreal experience.

Added to that, Linklater gets fantastic work from the other actors at work here. In particular, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deliver some of their absolute best work to date. Arquette won an Oscar for her performance while the equally deserving Hawke, who always guarantees a solid performance but especially when collaborating with Linklater, garnered a much deserved Oscar nomination.

More so than any other film in history, Boyhood truly conveys the process and feeling of growing up. The risky undertaking by Richard Linklater resulted in a film that was every bit worth the wait. And like I mentioned earlier, a filmmaking process like this may never happen again.

Video ****

This Criterion release once again showcases the studio’s top notch approach to Blu-ray presentations. This is one immensely detailed picture, complete with terrific color appearance and beautiful enhancement of the Texas scenery, especially that of Austin. It’s a pretty simple film, visually speaking, but Criterion has certainly made the most of it with this superbly grand presentation.

Audio ***1/2

First off, you simply can’t go wrong with a film that opens with Coldplay’s “Yellow”, which gets the DTS HD mix off to a tremendous start. The film itself is mostly powered by dialogue, all of which is wonderfully heard and delivered. There’s a good bit of music featured in the film, each song representing the period a certain scene was shot, and they all sound nothing short of phenomenal as far as playback is concerned. There’s also an unexpected and remarkable amount of ambient sounds captured in the rear channels, especially in outdoor sequences.

Features ****

As much as I was tempted to purchase the film when it first hit Blu-ray, I’m really glad I held out for this astonishing 2-Disc Blu-ray set from Criterion, which definitely features one of the best lineup of extras you will see on any release this year!

Disc One includes a commentary with Richard Linklater and various members of the cast and crew. It’s a terrific and well informative listen that features many details and memories of the film’s epic shoot.

On Disc Two, we get some absolutely terrific supplements, including a new documentary that chronicles the entire film production, with footage shot over its twelve year course, along with a new discussion with Linklater and actors Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane, moderated by producer John Pierson. There’s also a most terrific conversation between Coltrane and Ethan Hawke, as well as a new video essay by critic Michael Koresky about the theme of time in Linklater's Films, which is narrated by Coltrane. Lastly, we get a collection of portraits of the cast and crew by photographer Matt Lankes and narrated with personal thoughts from Linklater, Arquette, Hawke, Coltrane, and Producer Cathleen Sutherland , and a wonderful insert booklet featuring an essay by novelist Johnathan Lethem.


Criterion is far and away the most appropriate studio to handle such an ambitious work of art such as Boyhood. Richard Linklater has covered a whole lot of ground with his body of work, but this represents a bold achievement on his part and will most likely be the film he is forever remembered for.

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