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Sundance 2014: Boyhood reaction

Whether it wins any of Sundance's Grand Jury awards or not, it'd be difficult to deny that Boyhood isn't the most unique and awe-inspiring movie to come out of Sundance this year.

Filmed over an astonishing 11 year period using the same cast, Richard Linklater's puberty-spanning drama follows the everyday life of one child as he - not exactly spoiler alert - navigates his way through boyhood, adolescence and young manhood.

The commitment to the project is audacious in itself, but it's the continuity that astounds. While the 164-minute running time is bladder-battlingly lengthy, there's rarely a flabby scene. Through the obvious physical development of his child leads, as well as some amusingly nostalgic visual and auditory nods (Game Boy Advances, 'Oops!… I Did It Again', and grumbling goths all get a look in), you're always aware of the subtle march of time, and it's a journey that swiftly immerses.
 
Indeed, the script is all the more tightly impressive for hitting almost every emotional and personal development beat (the first house move/best friend/girlfriend/house party/beer/job/lover) without it ever feeling cynical, cheesy or crammed.
 
Part foresight and a hefty dose of sheer luck, Linklater hit the jackpot with his child casting; not only with lead Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who grows in both talent, ease and understated charm, but with his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Both grow up on screen, and their sibling rivalry, relationship and acting skills mature with them.
 
Equally, while the plot is very much focused on Mason and the way he interacts and perceives the world around him, the script successfully crafts subtle but compelling character arcs for his parents. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette fit their parental roles perfectly, and while the majority of their dramas occur out-of-shot, you're always aware that they're battling their own emotional and professional demons along the way.
 
While the over-arching character beats are far from original, that's kind of the point - as with Linklater's Before series, the joy of watching comes from sympathising, connecting and reminiscing over life experiences we've all lived through ourselves.
 
Boyhood is to growing up what Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight are to relationships - natural, affecting movie realism at its most moving.

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