In Boyhood, Richard Linklater follows the same actors over 12 years, as they age with their characters. Ellar Coltrane plays Mason Jr, a six-year-old boy growing up in the America of the 2000s: the nervous years of Middle Eastern war, digital advances and eventual economic depression. Against the backdrop of a changing society we watch Mason’s parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) divorce, find new love, lose it and find it again. Meanwhile Mason grows up – he falls for a girl, tries to understand his wayward father, discovers art and goes to college.
The film is at once of a piece with Linklater’s other pictures – as temporal as the Before/After series, as philosophical as Waking Life – and also more universal than anything else he’s done. The characters drift through life as we do: bemused, in turns sad and happy, wondrous at the mystery of time and how it passes.