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Boyhood: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Boyhood (2014) movie poster Boyhood

Theatrical Release: July 11, 2014 / Running Time: 165 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Patricia Arquette (Olivia Evans), Ellar Coltrane (Mason Evans Jr.), Lorelei Linklater (Samantha Evans), Ethan Hawke (Mason Evans Sr.), Libby Villari (Grandma Catherine), Marco Perella (Professor Bill Welbrock), Jamie Howard (Mindy Welbrock), Andrew Villarreal (Randy Welbrock), Charlie Sexton (Jimmy), Barbara Chisholm (Carol), Brad Hawkins (Jim), Nick Krause (Charlie), Jenni Tooley (Annie), Roland Ruiz (Ernesto), Richard Jones (Grandpa Cliff), Karen Jones (Nana), Tom McTigue (Mr. Turlington), Zoe Graham (Sheena), Jesse Tilton (April), Richard Robichaux (Mason's Boss), Bill Wise (Uncle Steve Evans), Maximillian McNamara (Dalton), Jessi Mechler (Nicole)
Boyhood is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Boyhood ranks 66th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

Buy Boyhood from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

I used to wonder why no one ever thought to make a movie over a number of years, until I realized that the extraordinary dramatic potential of seeing characters grow, age and evolve wasn't significant enough to overcome practical challenges like scheduling and consistent financial backing. It would take a truly committed filmmaker to realize such a project
and Richard Linklater fits the bill on Boyhood, a coming-of-age drama twelve years in the making.

Linklater began shooting this film in early 2002, back when Before Sunrise was still a standalone film and not a series he'd revisit every nine years. Boyhood resembles that now trilogy of European romances and reflects the writer-director's tastes for nostalgia, conversation, and checking in on characters through different phases of life.

The film opens in 2002 with protagonist Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) a boy of about six years old. He and his slightly older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) share bunk beds and irritate their divorced mother (Patricia Arquette) with petty fights involving thrown pillows and Britney Spears songs. The kids are cute and innocent. They object to Mom's plan to spontaneously relocate to Houston, but their opinion doesn't carry much weight. Mom returns to college to get a degree. The siblings' father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), pops in and out of the picture. He's a fun Dad, but not a terribly responsible one. He's back in Texas after working on a ship in Alaska, but the kids' hopes for a reunion of their parents are misplaced.

Cool divorced dad Mason (Ethan Hawke) is subjected to two separate conversations from his children Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).

Instead, Mom marries one of her professors (Marco Perella) and forms a family of six with his comparably aged son and daughter. Their bliss is short-lived, as the new Dad's appreciation for alcohol leads him to develop a temper and one that puts everyone on edge. Mom takes the two kids and moves them in temporarily with a friend and into a new school.

And so it goes, with us subtly advancing a year every ten minutes or so. The kids grow taller, change their hairstyles and develop new interests. Young Mason is very into video games, but as a teenager he takes a stance against screens and vows to delete his Facebook profile. His father evolves from a Bush-hating Democrat who drives the kids around to put up Obama/Biden signs in lawns (and even steals a McCain one) into a mustachioed remarried man whose in-laws give Mason Jr. a red letter edition Bible and a rifle for his 15th birthday.

Boyhood fascinates as a cinematic exercise as it charts the journey from boy to man for one average Texan. The scattered episodes offer insight into the children's upbringing, their changing tastes, and growing interest in the opposite sex. Unfortunately, the film cannot sustain the high quality of its promising start. Eventually, Mason and Sam begin their awkward phases. Their changing body shapes, acne, and social discomfort cannot be faked. Sticking with actors who would never be cast in such awkward phases gives us a more realistic and honest view of adolescence. Alas, it becomes considerably tougher to sympathize with Mason and enjoy spending time with him. He develops an almost uncanny resemblance to Hawke and some of his monologues are ones you could easily imagine coming out of the mouth of the actor's Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight alter ego, Jesse.

The film is distinguished by a number of poignant, heartfelt, sincere moments. Those moments come less frequently, though, as the film inches towards its epic (and excessive) nearly 3-hour runtime. One doesn't doubt that the film was written in increments and influenced by the own developments in the lives of Coltrane and the Linklaters. At its best, this doesn't feel like a scripted film at all, but a portrait of a real life, reminiscent of Michael Apted's ...Up documentaries. Linklater does a fine job of capturing a year with musical selections and cultural benchmarks (from Roger Clemens still pitching for the Astros in his 40s to a midnight Harry Potter book release party to Will Ferrell's Funny or Die-launching short The Landlord to talk of summer 2008's best films). That he stuck with this project is most admirable. One only wishes his characters were more consistently compelling so as to heighten the impact of their lives beyond physical transformation.

Playing mother Olivia, Patricia Arquette is destined for her first Oscar nomination and win in the Supporting Actress category. Olivia's second husband, Professor Bill Welbrock (Marco Perella), hates squash, but loves drinking.

I first saw Boyhood in mid-June, a month before its theatrical release. I enjoyed it, but was certain it would not be able to overcome the many months and long odds to compete for cinema's highest honors. How could it? A year earlier, Linklater's Before Midnight released in summer to by far the best reviews of the year, but it was forgotten in all Oscar categories but Adapted Screenplay the following winter.
Having seen almost every Oscar Best Picture winner, I recognized that Boyhood did not fit any mold. It was too small and different. Its distributor, IFC Films, had hardly competed for any Academy Awards (and never Best Picture) since its infancy at the beginning of the century.

And yet, here we are now in January and Boyhood certainly looks like the film to beat for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress. You can credit that to an end-of-year crop that's inspired less passion than most and the fact that many of the year's best films were entertaining blockbusters, for which the Oscars have very little appetite. Even if Boyhood isn't your favorite film of 2014 (and for many it is), who can begrudge such a long-in-the-making labor of love for bringing Linklater the accolades his mostly agreeable work has repeatedly warranted but never yielded?

Boyhood certainly sticks with you. Twice in the days leading up to this review, I dreamt of rewatching the film and expanding my six-month-old review to detail an elevated appreciation. Those dreams did not provide the most accurate forecast of my second viewing, which instead served to thoroughly reinforce my initial reaction to the film.

The first hour of the film remains pretty terrific, as good as any hour of any 2014 film. The remaining hour and forty-five minutes do not offer as much to enjoy. Mason Jr. stops being an appealing protagonist around age 13. The rest of the way, he's a mopey teen with photography ambitions. He strikes me as a character who might sustain interest for a single scene in Linklater's slice-of-life debut Slacker. But he's asked to do much more than that: he's asked to carry the film with his rarely profound ruminations about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Three-dimensional characters talking about real issues is enough of a rarity in contemporary film that the lagging second half can't undo the immense goodwill generated by the compelling start. Still, the design wears thin, salvaged only by some sharp parent-child conversations.

As the Best Picture frontrunner, Boyhood is more or less guaranteed to vie for the Best Editing Oscar, but that is one award it definitely does not deserve. Sure, shooting just a little bit every year for twelve years must have created colossal challenges for Linklater and Sandra Adair, his editor of over twenty years. They succeed at making the movie as seamless as it could be, but the whole thing runs much too long. Multiple scenes could be lost or significantly shortened at no detriment to the film as a whole. You can easily argue that this undertaking is far too major to trim to the director's usual comfort zone of around 100 minutes. Coming of age is no short journey, after all. But this movie avoids being epic at every impulse, choosing to leave out rites presumed to be defining moments and instead feature little episodes along the way: a 3 AM queso meal from a 24-hour diner, the drive home from graduation. While it would require losing a lot of work given much thought, I have no doubt that a tauter edit of the final 100 minutes would have produced a much more satisfying film.

Furthermore, though Boyhood seems likely to elicit supporting actor nominations for Hawke and Arquette, deservingly, acting is often one area that troubles the film. That's forgivable in the sense that casting a convincing child actor is always a challenge. Casting several and asking them to pop in for a week's work every year sounds like a recipe for disaster. While he performs admirably considering the demands, Coltrane often doesn't hide the fact that he's acting. Long, unbroken takes of Linklater's thoughtful philosophizing on the human condition would be a tall task for most actors, so it's not too surprising that artificiality creeps into the performances of the youngest, least experienced cast members.

The Evans family unbreaks for a photo with high school graduate Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane).

I realize that my opinions are more likely to be held by an average viewer than a critic.
I also realize my sentiments are colored by the unanimous praise lavished upon the film as well as its clear path to being declared the best film of 2014 by the Oscars and most other major awards organizations. And well, they could do much worse and only a little better.

Boyhood proved my instincts wrong, defying past limitations experienced by summer openings and IFC Films distribution. The $24.3 million grossed to date domestically (a number that may soon rise assuming Oscar nominations prompt expansion from the 21-theater count it clings to) is nearly as much as Linklater's five comparably exhibited previous films combined. Nearly matched in foreign markets (an unusual achievement in itself for a non-genre indie), the movie easily stands as the third highest-grossing release of Linklater's career to date, behind the Noughties wide releases School of Rock and Bad News Bears.

You might expect Boyhood to reach home video in The Criterion Collection, the esteemed boutique line that has distributed Linklater's first two films. Such a release would have to wait, though, because the movie hit stores today as part of a one-off distribution deal with Paramount Home Entertainment. The much bigger studio releases it as a DVD and in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Boyhood: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Blu-ray Film only: English for Hearing Impaired
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


For the sake of consistency, Boyhood was shot entirely on film. That and the film's low budget may both be factors in the Blu-ray's 1.78:1 presentation looking a little less than perfect. Many shots and parts of them lack sharpness, grain turns up on occasion, and close scrutiny reveals tiny white specks briefly occupy the frame with some regularity. Though the picture quality should still satisfy most viewers, it definitely does not wow to the extent that most new films do (perhaps we need to judge the film against fellow 2002 shoots like Lost in Translation and School of Rock).

Sound is offered in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and it is without issue. Dialogue is crisp and easily understood throughout and the mix opens up slightly for those "period" needle drops.

Writer/director Richard Linklater discusses "The 12 Year Project" in a public library. Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke discuss their annual family get-togethers in this 2014 Silent Movie Theatre Q & A session.


Boyhood is joined by two bonus features, both of which are only found on the Blu-ray Disc per Paramount's current practices. Each is presented in high definition.

"The 12 Year Project" (19:11) is a making-of featurette, which dispatches some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews of Linklater and his actors (often conducted by castmates) from over the years.
A film as unconventional as this one could probably easily yield a feature-length documentary, but this piece (just as long in the making as the film) has the considerable value you'd like. The interviews of the kids when they were first cast are priceless (7-year-old Coltrane's all-time favorite movie is Dark City, while Lorelei Linklater adorably admits Waking Life put her to sleep).

The other extra is a Q & A (52:38) with Richard Linklater and actors Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke. Conducted at Cinefamily's Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles in June 2014, this panel covers all the appropriate bases in an interesting fashion. Topics include making a period film in the moment, picking music to represent the years, letting go of this special experience, the project's evolution, playing a part for a week every year for twelve years, and deciding on a title for the film. It's an illuminating and welcome inclusion.

The Boyhood DVD may lack the Blu-ray's bonus features, but it keeps its nifty animated photo collage main menu.

Typical for Paramount, the Blu-ray opens with streamed trailers. Unable to do that, the DVD contains more dependable, navigable full trailers for Interstellar, Men, Women & Children, and Rudderless, which also play from the menu's "Previews" listing.

The main menu moves around a collage of still images while a portion of Hero's "Family of the Year" is looped. The Blu-ray doesn't resume unfinished playback, but does support bookmarks.

The two plainly-labeled discs (one gray, one blue) share an eco-friendly Blu-ray case that's topped by a cardboard slipcover. The lone insert supplies your Digital HD UltraViolet code and advertises other recent Paramount-distributed movies.

"Boyhood" ends with a moment in the wild seizing just moved-in college freshmen Nicole (Jessi Mechler) and Mason (Ellar Coltrane).


Many who write about film have proclaimed Boyhood as the greatest cinematic achievement of the 21st century. I wish I could agree,
having long appreciated Richard Linklater's unique contributions to the medium. Boyhood is excellent for a little over an hour, but it starts losing its appeal and lagging after that. Even so, this ambitious undertaking still adds up to one of the year's more rewarding and remarkable films.

Paramount's combo pack only offers two bonus features, but they are substantial ones. The feature presentation isn't perfect, but it's close enough. All things considered, this is a set that's easy to recommend to many, from Linklater fans to cinema lovers to (probably) those who collect Best Picture winners.

Buy Boyhood from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Richard Linklater: Before Midnight Dazed and Confused Slacker Everybody Wants Some!!
The Tree Of Life City of Men Frances Ha Hugo My Life As a Dog
The Imitation Game The Theory of Everything Birdman St. Vincent Into the Woods The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ethan Hawke: Getaway White Fang Dead Poets Society Brooklyn's Finest New York, I Love You
Patricia Arquette: Ed Wood Holes A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

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Reviewed January 6, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 IFC Films, Detour Filmproductions, and 2015 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.