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July 31, 2014

Movie review: 'Boyhood' makes the ordinary extraordinary

This is my story, this is your story. It's the life of my two sons.

"Boyhood" is a familiar journey that taps into our deepest feelIngs. We see a child's life from a fresh perspective, a revealing glimpse into 12 years of ordinary days.

This rare gem is unforgettable -- profound and deceptively simple at the same time.

My favorite film of the year to date, and certainly the Oscar front-runner, I can't imagine it not having a long shelf life as an important cinematic work.

Dispensing nuggets of wisdom in random moments, "Boyhood" genuinely reflects adolescence as we watch a boy grow up and chronicles parenting as we see a family dynamic over time.

This fluid, frank portrait is a time travel of haircuts, camp-outs, crushes, birthday parties, and rites of passage.

Once a year for 12 years, writer-director Richard Linklater filmed a segment of the movie, with Ellar Coltrane playing Mason from age 6 to 18.

Mason is a regular, grade-A boy, who tussles with his annoying sibling, pouts about parental decisions, plays video games, mumbles, fumbles with girls, and confidently goes in the direction of his dreams. Coltrane is a natural, appealing blank slate.

The director's own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, expressively, comfortably plays the older sister Samantha, while Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are the well-meaning parents who divorce early.

Hawke, a Linklater favorite, is at the top of his game here, as is Arquette. They give honest, nuanced portraits as parents moving through the peaks and valleys of their destiny as well. They grow up along with the kids.

Linklater is an ambitious filmmaker whose 19 movies comprise a varied body of work, from his breakthrough "Dazed and Confused" to his landmark "Before" trilogy -- "Sunrise," "Sunset" and "Midnight" (Oscar nominee for the two sequels as adapted screenplays). He achieved commercial success with "School of Rock" and critical acclaim for "Waking Life" and "Bernie," and is credited with creating the modern definition of "Slacker" with his 1991 first Sundance rave.

He eschews Hollywood to stay in Texas, and films many movies around his Austin home base. "Boyhood" uses Texas locales.

With this monumental undertaking, he further distinguishes himself as a unique voice. His brilliance is in the small details, highlighting the little things that shape our lives.

Because it is such a frank depiction of the ebb and flow of life, the movie is universal in scope and intimate in its emotional landscape.

Depicting the holding on and letting go decisions we make, it resonates, no matter what our situation or age.

Cinematographer Lee Daniel also does an inspired job, and the editing is remarkable. The music choices are inspired as well, and the soundtrack is spot-on of the time period.

Some will argue that it meanders, that it sags, is too long, that it concentrates on the mundane, and that we don't see the outcome of every story thread. But isn't that reflective of real life?

Maybe it is "too normal" for a movie, but it's an authentic slice of life that is rare, beautiful and memorable in a hopeful way.

Michael Apted's "Seven Up" documentaries are the closest in comparision, but that isn't narrative fiction.

This is the kind of movie that will stay with you for days, that you will mull over, debate, discuss and without a doubt, call your kids -- and/or parents -- immediately afterwards.

4 stars out of 4

Director: Richard Linklater

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater

Rated: R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug use and alcohol use.

Length: 2:36

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