Boyhood (Blu-ray Review)

BoyhoodBoyhood is a film that I was very interested in seeing this year, but for some reason or another I just did not get around to seeing theatrically.  I kind of feared it as more of a documentary rather than a moving story.  However, it’s hailed as “a moving 12-year epic that isn’t quite like anything else in the history of cinema” (Andrew O’Hehir, Salon), “a breathtaking achievement” (Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post) and “a profound viewing experience” (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times).  So the real question in my opinion is not why I, but why would anyone not want to see this one?  For a movie that’s filmed over a period of 12 years utilizing the same actors, and that breaks free from the conventional three Act of storytelling, write in permanent ink that I’m interested.  And so here we are…



As I already touched upon above, filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood is the groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason.  The box office hit from IFC Films has garnered universal critical acclaim.  Boyhood is currently Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 99% critic rating, earned an unprecedented score of 100 on Metacritic and is the first film to receive an A+ score from Entertainment Weekly’s Critical Mass.  The film, written and directed by Texan Richard Linklater, stars Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane as Mason.      

All those fancy smancy awards aside, what I find most intriguing about Boyhood is its extensive production history.  So before we even talk plot or performances, etc., lets’ talk about the um…the 12+ year production history here.  The behind-the-scenes story is quite remarkable, if I do say so myself.

In May 2002, director and screenwriter Richard Linklater said that he would begin shooting an untitled film in his home city of Houston, TX.  He planned to assemble a cast and crew for a few weeks of filming annually for 12 years.  He said “I’ve long wanted to tell the story of a parent–child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college. But the dilemma is that kids change so much that it is impossible to cover that much ground. And I am totally ready to adapt the story to whatever he is going through.”  That’s pretty bold, huh?  IFC, the film’s distributor, committed to a film budget of $200,000 per year over the 12-year shooting period.  That’s not much when you are making a movie, but let’s face it, Boyhood is not a big action, summer tentpole film.  It’s a drama.

Interestingly enough, the cast could not sign contracts for the film due to a law I never heard of.  The De Havilland Law makes it illegal to contract someone for more than seven years of work.  Linklater told Hawke that he would have to finish the film if Linklater died.  LOL.  That’s not funny, but it kind of is in a morbid way.  

So much to my chagrin Boyhood began filming without a completed script.  Say it ain’t so!  It was!  Linklater had prepared each character’s basic plot points, and the ending, but otherwise he was forced to write the script for the next year’s filming after rewatching the previous year’s footage, incorporating any changes he saw in each actor.  Now that’s intense!  However, what made it a little more manageable was the fact that all major actors participated in the writing process, contributing their own life experiences.  If nothing else, that definitely makes this film more personable.

Boyhood also had the working title of The Twelve-Year Project until mid-2013, when Linklater named it 12 Years.  However, he worried that the name might be confused with the 12 Years A Slave film, ugh, and renamed it Boyhood.  Despite all the risks here, and much to my surprise, Linklater had an unusual level of freedom with the production, never having to show IFC the work in progress.  That’s amazing and almost unheard of, but I digress because I never made a film with IFC so I’m not sure of their policies enough to weigh my opinion heavily.  So now, with all the history of Boyhood out of the way, let’s talk about the film itself.

So essentially, this coming-of-age-drama was shot intermittently over an eleven-year period from May 2002 to October 2013.  It not only shows the growth of a young boy and his older sister to adulthood, but of the adults in their lives too.  If you think about it, what really does the term “boyhood” mean?  Is it up util 18 years of age?  What’s the exact age range?  In my opinion, as I already stated four sentences ago, the story of Boyhood is so much more that just a tale of a boy.  If after watching this movie you don’t question decisions and dwell on aspects of your own life, then you must not be human  If nothing else, Boyhood has taught me to live in the present and appreciate the moments between all the big events in life, as that’s the real life we live, the time that slips quickly by, sometimes carelessly, that we can never get back.  It was also very cool to see all the familiar scenery in places like San Marcos and 6th Street in downtown Austin, TX.

The story is one thing here, but what really makes Boyhood tick are the performances.  They are paramount and key here because they have to be.  Otherwise, this would have been a near three hour feature that might as well have a useless hobbit leading a bunch of dwarves on a stupid mission where birds could have picked them up and flown them instead of sitting three butt numbing hours for.

Personally, I never have anything but good things to say about Ethan (as him and Linklater go way back), but its also the spot on casting here of Ellar, Patricia and even Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei, that cohesively bond this tightly told tale.  So what took 11 years to film quickly races by onscreen as you are so engrossed and entangled in the dramatic web that just like in real life, time flies by.  I’m talk about you 164-minute runtime.  I never once grew bored or resltess.  My initial fears  I had about this film were dead wrong and I could not be more grateful for that.  The seamless way they leapt from year-to-year without utilizing a single super slug left a lasting impression on me, one of greatness and well done sincerity.  Make no mistakes ladies and gentlemen, Boyhood DESERVES all the critical acclaim it has garnered.  You can take that to the bank and cash it.  I’m a fan FOR LIFE.



I love the fact that over the 11-year period this film was shot, the filmmakers never once deviated from capturing any of this magical drama on anything else other than 35mm.  To initially begin with that and then make the switch to digital in recent years would have made the years too obvious, and a big disservice to the viewers of Boyhood.  This choice was commendable, in my opinion, to shoot the film throughout on 35mm.  For the most part, things look awesome here.  So let’s take a closer examination, shall we?

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Clarity/Detail: What was most striking about this presentation was its sharpness and clarity.  I was really not expecting 12 year old footage to look this good. The amount of detail is really amazing from the crisp outdoor scenes that were chiseled to the individual blades of grass, leaves, bricks, stonework, stucco grooves in the walls and even individual strands of hair on the actors.  One funny moment transpired during “Year 1” where plain as day a fly crawled around the hand of Arquette while she was driving.  Maybe it was the same fly from Breaking Bad?
  • Depth: The characters all pop three-dimensionally and as a result the depth of field here is awe strikingly deep whether we’re inside or out.
  • Black Levels: Here’s where things suffer just slightly as there are some scenes where the black levels were not deep and dreamy like the majority of the film were.
  • Color Reproduction: The colors, especially outside, just pop here.  My mind instantly drifts to the film’s opening with the lush veggie grass in front of the “Year 1” home or sun drenched Texas scenery.  However, your results are really going to vary here by the “years” and scenery.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all natural and authentic looking throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: I hate to be a nitpicker, but more than one occasion I did see some pesky white specks, but not enough to ever dear you from the raw beauty and magic of this film.



This is a drama guys, not a bang, bang shoot ’em up kind of feature so things are going to be very top heavy here.  That’s just my warning to y’all.

  • Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
  • Dynamics: I honestly was not expecting much, but the score and soundtrack and even the moments of tension kept me in the game here.  Things were balanced well for a drama with subtle ambience so that’s all I could ask for really.
  • Low Frequency Extension: Except for some moments of a slightly thumping soundtrack the LFE is utilized only to bring balance to the presentation.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Again, I was not expecting much.  With the exception of the score, the only real utilization here in the rears were for the ambient sound effects and atmosphere, that’s all.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Once we got past “Year 1” I never had a problem with understanding the dialogue again.  Spoken words were clear and intelligible.



Paramount’s Boyhood Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a look at the extraordinary work that went into making the film, as well as an in-depth Q&A with Richard Linklater and the cast.  The Combo Pack also includes a DVD that houses the feature film in standard definition as well as a redemption code for the Digital HD copy of the film good for UltraViolet and iTunes.  Yea! Sadly, there’s no audio commentary to be found here. That would have been so awesome!  While these two extras aren’t exactly as monumental as the feature film itself, let’s take a closer look at them so you can’t say I didn’t do my job.

  • The 12 Year Project (HD, 19:11) – Ethan and Patricia kind of conduct interviews throughout this one as Linklater and cast members talk about their experience.  Linklater sheds light on what inspired him to make this film.  Various other topics were shown and covered here such as how amazing it was to get financing for this venture, casting, behind-the-scenes moments and even the very last take of the film and afterwards.   Obviously, there’s a lot more ground covered in this 12-year chronicle, despite its brevity, but these are just some to whet your appetite.
  • Q&A with Richard Linklater and the Cast (HD, 52:38) – This is the closest you will come to an audio commentary as Linklater and main cast gather at the Cinefamily Screening at The Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, CA on June 15, 2014.  The main gist of the story here, Boyhood captures the rhythm of life oh so well.



I guess if you should need any further reason as to why you should at least check out Boyhood as soon as you can remember the following.  This is President Obama’s favorite film of 2014 according to People here.  Armed with that knowledge how could you ever turn your back on Boyhood?  That kind of info makes Boyhood a MUST-OWN purchase, no?  I rest my case.  Whatever your excuse is, overcome and give Boyhood a viewing as soon as you can so you’re ready for next year’s Award Season.  Like time does in real life, Boyhood‘s longer runtime flies by.  Happy Holidays!


Richard Linklater’s extraordinary  film Boyhood

 debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack January 6, 2015







Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

3 Responses to “Boyhood (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Glad you loved it!

    I was at the Q&A 😉

  2. Brian White
  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    I mean the Q&A at Cinefamily in the special features