“Meandering”, “profound”, “Sundance hit”, and “directed by Richard Linklater” could all be red flags for some people. I personally love the Before ___ series, but like many films I strongly love (Short Term 12, Moonrise Kingdom) I can see potentially valid criticism from a mile away. In Linklater’s case, his films tend to be indulgent conversations between amazingly well-spoken characters, or thinly veiled versions of himself (see: Waking Life). Love it or hate it, the conceit is hard to ignore.
Even if the thought of watching Linklater’s take on the Up Series makes you cringe, it’d be a real shame if you dismissed Boyhood. While the story surrounding the film — shot incrementally as the actor grew from 6 to 19 years old — makes it a unique (and arguably unmissable) experience in its own right, it’s the seamless continuity and lack of heavy-handed editorializing which make it truly remarkable. There are no “One Year Later” title cards, overt Coming Of Age milestones, or precious Look At How Much He’s Grown™ moments; it’s naturalistic and subdued in the best possible way. The broken-family themes can get a bit heavy and the characters fall prey to a little armchair philosophizing (hey, if Ethan Hawke were your dad, you probably would too), but it all fits perfectly in the context of a boy growing up and finding his voice — as flawed a byproduct of his age and surroundings as that voice may be. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s moving in ways a more perfectly-scripted one could never be. Regardless of whether you typically like this sort of thing, it’s absolutely worth seeking out. You’ll be glad for the three hours you got with these characters. Review below: