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Richard Linklater
Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
Writing Credits:
Richard Linklater

The life of Mason Evan Jr. from age 5 to age 18.

Box Office:
$4 million.
Opening Weekend
$387,618 on 5 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 165 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 10/11/2016

• Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew
• “12 Years” Documentary
• “Memories of the Present” Discussion
• “Always Now” Conversation
• “Time of Your Life” Video Essay
• “Through the Years” Photo Montage
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Boyhood: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 11, 2016)

An unusual and ambitious cinematic project comes to fruition with 2014’s Boyhood. Filmed over almost 12 years, the story follows the lives of Mason Evans Jr. and his family.

Boyhood starts in 2002 and introduces us to six-year-old Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), his slightly older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and their single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette). So Olivia can go back to college, she moves the kids to Houston because her mother (Libby Villari) lives there.

We follow the clan from 2002 to 2013. Along the way, a variety of events happen, such as the reintroduction into the kids’ lives of Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) in 2004 and Olivia’s marriage to college professor Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella) in 2005. All of this leads us to 2013 and Mason’s graduation from high school.

On the positive side, Boyhood certainly qualifies as an audacious experiment – and one that easily could’ve gone south. Director Richard Linklater gathered all involved every year from 2002 to 2013 to create “short films”, and these got collected into the overall narrative we see here. 12 years, 12 shoots, all to create one long movie.

Even if the film only used actors who were adults in 2002, it would’ve been tough to get the various participants back to the production. The addition of young performers added to the challenge, as kids don’t control their own destinies like adults do.

Granted, Linklater partially stacked the deck when he cast his daughter Lorelei as Samantha. Other than Mason, she’s the only child who really needed to be there for the entire 12-year production, though as we learn in the Blu-ray’s supplements, she eventually tired of the project and attempted to get her dad to kill off her character.

The choice of Lorelei ensured that Richard would always have actress to the second-lead child, but he enjoyed no similar guarantees in regard to Coltrane’s future availability. If his family decided to move away – or simply changed their minds and bailed on the production – then Linklater’s experiment would’ve hit the skids. Perhaps he could’ve figured out some way to salvage the project, but the loss of Coltrane would’ve made that much more difficult.

While I definitely applaud the nerve and ambition Linklater brought to Boyhood, I feel less enthusiastic about the film itself. I think there’s a considerable danger that the production’s backstory will overshadow the movie itself. Given all the work that Boyhood required, it becomes more difficult to criticize it – how can we not applaud such audacity?

Again, I do think Boyhood represents a cool undertaking, but the movie itself does less for me. The film lacks a plot, as it essentially just visits Mason and family from time to time without any real overriding theme or narrative direction. Occasionally it seems to threaten to go down one path or another, but it never does, so we get slices of life without consistent story beats.

Many seem to love that and think it makes Boyhood “realistic”, as it appears to avoid the “big events” and melodrama that other efforts might accentuate. This is true to a degree, but I think Boyhood isn’t quite the “random slices of life” piece some build it to be. It comes with a fair number of dramatic elements and plops itself on different major days – like Mason’s graduation – as it goes, so it doesn’t simply grab the characters on a collection of ordinary occasions.

This approach seems both good and bad. On one hand, it’s a positive that Linklater gives us some drama – such as events related to Olivia’s abusive second husband – as these ensure we get something interesting to watch along the way.

However, the more dynamic/serious scenes threaten to sabotage the movie’s overarching conceit. A more pure take on the characters would feel less oriented toward big life moments and come across as more natural and random.

Of course, the actions we see in the movie occur in real life, so I don’t mean to convey they seem phony. I just feel that if Boyhood had pursued a more consistent path, it might’ve been truer to itself.

That said, I suspect a nearly three-hour movie that consisted of “ordinary life” would be God-awful dull, and even the Boyhood we get doesn’t prove to be especially scintillating. Granted, I understand that it doesn’t attempt to be a thrill a minute, so one needs to accept and go with its gradual pace to appreciate it.

However, the essential lack of “action” does become a problem, largely because our lead character can seem so bland. At the start, Mason offers some hints of personality, but these tend to disappear as the movie progresses. He acts as a near cipher and lacks much to make us invest in him or care what happens to him.

Indeed, the viewer may often wish that Boyhood would abandon its lead and follow other characters instead. Mason’s parents seem to be substantially more interesting than he is, and his sister also hints at a more dynamic life as well. Mason mostly just ambles along without much to make him an involving personality.

And again, I get that this seems to be part of the movie’s point, as Boyhood wants to be about an ordinary kid. But Mason’s sister and parents are “ordinary” too – they’re just not bland and forgettable like he is.

This issue becomes more of a problem as the movie progresses, mostly because the novelty wears off after a while. The film’s unusual structure and pace ensure that we remain interested for at least the first hour, and bits and pieces continue to work after that. Even at its most sluggish, Boyhood still remains reasonably watchable. However, it can become rather tedious, again mainly due to the drabness of the lead character.

It doesn’t help that Coltrane never really improves as an actor. He starts as one-dimensional and stays that way until the movie ends. Coltrane gives us a flat, emotionless performance that acts as a barrier against the movie’s effectiveness. Mason ages and becomes a different person but not with any drive or clarity; he evolves more because the story tells us he does rather than due to anything Coltrane does with the part.

Everyone else in the main recurring cast does much better, and the professionals we see in less consistent roles also fare well. Really, outside of Coltrane, I can’t find much about which to complain in terms of acting. The various performers don’t get much time to embellish their characters, but they do so in ways that add to the movie.

Ultimately, none of this makes Boyhood more than an occasionally interesting experiment. The story behind its creation seems substantially more compelling than the erratic and sometimes dull end product.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Boyhood appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a visual showcase, the image usually succeeded.

What “flaws” I noticed cropped up during the 2002-04 scenes. Those showed mild softness at times – usually during interiors – and I saw a couple of small specks. These parts of the movie weren’t unattractive but they could seem lackluster.

Happily, the visuals improved as the film progressed. Sharpness still had some inconsistencies, but the movie seemed well-defined and concise the majority of the time. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. After those early sequences, no obvious print flaws appeared.

Boyhood provided a low-key but natural palette. Throughout the movie, the hues seemed reasonably full and distinctive. Blacks were fairly deep and rich, while shadows offered good smoothness and visibility. This became a “B” presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it remained consistently restrained. The soundscape lacked much ambition and focused heavily on the forward channels. In that realm, the sporadic examples of music showed positive stereo presence, and the side channels offered generally good sense of place.

The surrounds didn’t have much to do, though they opened up a bit as the film progressed. Even so, they stayed limited and didn’t give us much information. We got a bit of usage for scenes at sporting events or at parties, but the track concentrated on the front the vast majority of the time.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech seemed concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded peppy and full, and effects came across as accurate and clear. Nothing here impressed, but the track seemed fine for the material.

How did the Criterion release compare to the original 2015 Blu-ray? Audio appeared identical, but visuals showed some improvements. The Criterion disc came across as a bit tighter and cleaner than the prior version. It’s not a huge step up, but the Criterion set offered the superior image.

The Criterion package comes with new extras, and these start with an audio commentary. During this chat, we get a running, screen-specific piece with writer/director Richard Linklater, editor Sandra Adair, costume designer Kari Perkins, producer Cathleen Sutherland, 1st AD Vince Palmo, casting director Beth Sepko, production designer Rodney Becker, and actors Marco Perella, Andrew Villarreal, Libby Villari. Various participants come and go, so don’t expect that whole crew the entire time.

The commentary project's origins and development, cast/performances, character/story areas, costumes, cinematography, editing, personal experiences that informed the movie, dealing with the long shooting schedule, locations and production design, music, editing and various challenges.

Overall, this becomes a good commentary, though probably not as involving as it should be. The best parts look at real-life influences, with an emphasis on how Linklater’s past informed characters and situations.

I think the track feels a little less reflective than I’d like, though. Boyhood used such a novel approach/schedule but we don’t get a great feel for those issues. Again, the track works pretty well in its own right, but I don’t think it quite lives up to expectations.

Disc Two comes with five components. Twelve Years runs 49 minutes, 28 seconds and provides gives us footage recorded during the movie’s long shoot. This means comments across the 12 years from Linklater, Ellar Coltrane’s mother, and actors Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Zoe Graham.

Essentially a video journal across the shoot, we get a good feel for how the movie progressed/evolved over time. The remarks add a little info, but the most valuable material comes from the on-the-set footage. Those elements turn this into a good overview of the production.

During the 57-minute, 35-second Memories of the Present, we find a discussion that involves Linklater, Arquette and Coltrane. Moderated by producer John Pierson, this panel chat looks at reactions to the film’s completion and its reception, aspects of the long shoot, how the actors’ real lives impacted the story/characters, and various reflections on the production.

Like the commentary, “Present” offers a good but not great conversation. The program offers a series of useful thoughts and becomes a fairly positive overview. However, it lacks great insight and could be tighter/better focused.

Always Now lasts 30 minutes, 10 seconds and provides a chat with Coltrane and Hawke. They discuss their characters and evolution as well as their performances, working with Linklater and more elements of the shoot. “Now” resembles the other chats, but it still offers new information, partly due to Linklater’s absence, as this allows Hawke and Coltrane to reflect on the director.

Next comes Time of Your Life, a 12-minute, 29-second video essay. Coltrane reads an essay from critic Michael Koresky accompanied by clips from Boyhood and other Linklater films aswell as various stills. “Life” offers a good piece of interpretation and introspection.

Disc Two finishes with Through the Years. This gives us a 23-minute, 59-second running montage of photos shot on the set by Matt Lankes. It also includes excerpts from writings by Lankes, Linklater, Sutherland, Hawke, Arquette and Coltrane, all of whom read their work. The photos offer a nice glimpse of the long production, and the comments add interesting thoughts. It’s another useful piece.

A booklet completes the package. It offers photos, credits and an essay from novelist Jonathan Lethem. Like most Criterion booklets, it adds value to the set.

While I admire the scope and ambition of Boyhood, the movie itself leaves me more cold than I’d like. Parts of it engage but the flick’s loose, meandering natural makes it somewhat dull. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio along with an engaging set of supplements. Boyhood remains an intriguing but not especially fascinating cinematic experience.

To rate this film, visit the original review of BOYHOOD

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