Unique, affecting, mature drama about life and growing up.
Based on 20 reviews
Based on 39 reviews
Common Sense is a nonprofit organization. Your purchase helps us remain independent and ad-free.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Boyhood is an extraordinary drama that was filmed over the course of 12 years, following the main character, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows from age 5 to age 18. Rather than sticking to a standard coming-of-age plot, the movie is more about the rhythms of life itself: trying to get by, making mistakes and moving on. There's strong language that comes in bursts, including "f--k" and "s--t." One sequence involves an abusive, alcoholic second husband. No onscreen violence is shown, but it's definitely suggested, and there's a sense of threat. Sex talk comes up from time to time, and the main character is seen briefly kissing his girlfriend. Teen characters also experiment with drugs and alcohol. Despite the mature content, this is a special movie that, if teens and parents watch together, could spark many fascinating discussions about life.
Growing up pains
Report this review
Report this review
What's the Story?
In BOYHOOD, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) literally grows up on camera, from age 5 to age 18. During this time, he faces life's little triumphs and tragedies, starting with divorced parents. His mother (Patricia Arquette) gets married again -- to a man who becomes increasingly drunk and abusive. He forces Mason to cut his long hair into a short crew cut, and eventually Mason, his mother, and his sister (Lorelei Linklater) must make their escape and start life anew. Mason's divorced father (Ethan Hawke) visits every so often for ball games, camping, and haphazard advice, and Mason encounters bullies, girls, and becomes interested in photography. The story ends as he goes off to college, meets his roommate and a new girl, and discovers that life is full of possibility.
Is It Any Good?
Director Richard Linklater accomplished something truly visionary with Boyhood. Over the course of 13 years, beginning in 2002, he filmed Coltrane each year, whenever scheduling allowed, adding to the script a bit at a time. The result is a true existential experience, a masterpiece. It's not driven by plot -- it can't return to pick up past plot threads -- but rather by life itself.
But Boyhood is far from a mere reality show. Linklater's thoughtful dialogue abounds, and the characters are constantly thinking and asking questions about their lives. Certain memories are never recovered (the promise of a GTO), and losses are never regained (the fate of the step-siblings), but characters learn from mistakes and pain and continue to move forward. The film has dozens of magical, memorable moments, from the early description of how wasps are made to a special Beatles mix CD. It's nearly three hours long, but it moves by nearly as quickly as life does.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the sequence with the alcoholic, abusive stepfather. How much tension is generated, and how much violence is actually shown? What's the overall effect? Did the movie need to show more or less?
Teens occasionally experiment with drugs and alcohol in Boyhood. How does the movie view these sequences? Is it right or wrong for teens to experiment? What are the consequences, if any, of these actions?
How early do these characters become interested in romantic relationships? What do they learn?
What are some of the lessons learned in this movie? What disappointments or failures did characters have to overcome? How did they overcome them?
Did you have any difficulty watching a movie of this length and with this format? How is it different from more mainstream movies?
- In theaters: July 11, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2015
- Cast: Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane
- Director: Richard Linklater
- Studio: IFC Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 166 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
- Awards: Academy Award, Golden Globe
- Last updated: March 12, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
The Tree of Life
Unique, difficult, poetic masterpiece about life and death.
Wounded characters, iffy behavior in gritty, powerful drama.
Moody coming-of-age drama has sex, drinking, language.
For kids who love dramas
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate