Boyhood

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Boyhood Movie Poster Image
Unique, affecting, mature drama about life and growing up.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 166 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 28 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No hard-and-fast lessons, but characters do learn from simply getting through life's hardships and disappointments. The mother gives some advice to a man early in the film, and years later runs into him to find that her advice has paid off; she receives his heartfelt thanks.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These aren't necessarily bad people or good people -- just real people. They try to get by, they make mistakes, they learn, and they keep moving on. Most of them have good intentions.

Violence

The mother marries a man who turns out to be a violent drunk. There's a suggestion that he beats her; she's shown lying on the floor of the garage, sobbing. He's shown as being angry and threatening, with the children and the mother very clearly afraid of him. Mason receives a shotgun as a present. Characters argue.

Sex

Mason is shown kissing his girlfriend. Characters discuss sex and contraception. There's various innuendo, and a possible suggestion of Internet porn, but nothing is shown. The condescending phrase "hunting beaver" is used.

Language

Strong language comes in fits and starts. "F--k" and various permutations are used a few times, plus "s--t," "bulls--t," "p---y," "a--hole," "penis," "c--k," "ass," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "bitch," "faggot," "whore," "d--k," "damn," "hell," "piss," "numb-nuts," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). A middle finger gesture is shown. The phrase "hunting beaver" is used.

Consumerism

Various brands are seen in passing over the years: computers (a desktop Apple), and video games (a Game Boy) are shown. Characters play a first-person shooter game on XBox. In one sequence, kids get dressed up to go to the bookstore to get the latest Harry Potter book. Coca-Cola is mentioned. Facebook is mentioned. Gatorade is mentioned/shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A secondary character is a dangerous alcoholic; at first he drinks secretly and later openly at the dinner table. He gets angry and abusive and is very clearly a threat to his wife and their kids. As a teen, Mason tries some beer while hanging out with some guy friends. He's later seen smoking pot. Still later, he attends a party with that has Jell-o shots and lots of beer, as well as drinking games. At college, he tries drugs with his roommate. Adults are seen drinking beer and other alcohol socially. The father smokes cigarettes from time to time and tries to quit at one point.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byVo August 17, 2014

A wonderful movie with mature themes

My wife and I just saw this wonderful, moving film. Despite the R rating, we had considered taking our 10 year old son based on some of the user reviews on thi... Continue reading
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 August 2, 2014

Life itself

Here's the thing: the movie is fine to take, say, your high school freshman to. There's language in it and drug taking. But...to appreciate the film,... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byZach July 31, 2014

Fabulous artistic drama has a lot of swearing, and implied domestic abuse

This is one of the best movies I've seen in a while. The fact that the same actor has played the boy from age 5-18 is amazing. It is a very realistic portr... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bygmvyoshi January 20, 2015

Fascinating Once-In-A-Life Time Movie is Amazing.

"Boyhood" is a fantastic movie that will appeal to teens. It sends a positive message in the end. The movie really has no plot, so you can't te... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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