I love director Richard Linklater's "Before" series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) which introduces a young couple in their 20s who have a chance meeting on a train, and then revisits their lives and relationships ten years later, and again ten years after that. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were in their 20s when filming Before Sunrise and aged real-time with their characters in each subsequent movie.
The concept would be merely gimmicky if Linklater was not such a strong writer of naturalistic dialogue, as he also proved in the "Before" series, which all featured lengthy conversations between the two protagonists. Boyhood provides glimpses of different
stages of Mason's childhood, as you literally watch him grow up on film. Sometimes the annual aging is so subtle that you only realize there has been a time-jump because Mason has a new hairstyle.
Based on previous family dramas, there were multiple points in the movie where one has been programmed to expect some sensational event such as a car crash, drug overdose, or teen pregnancy to occur. There is none of that. Other than a few episodes with drunken step-fathers, nothing overly
dramatic happens. And yet, despite a 2 hour and 45 minute running time, for some reason the movie is riveting and you are totally invested in the lives of this boy and his family.
The unique concept and directorial challenges in making this movie over such a long period of time make Linklater a favourite for Oscar contention, although its July release does seem a bit early for Oscar season. Hopefully it will not be forgotten in the fall when the other challengers flood the theatres.