The gimmick alone is worth the price of admission. Richard Linklater took his core cast and shot a little bit at a time for twelve years so we would actually be able to watch these guys grow. How cool is that?
But let's look beyond the gimmick... which the more I think on it feels less and less gimmicky and more and more natural. I wish we could get movies like this on a regular basis. Anyway, Boyhood actually captures something else across the years. A complete and well structured movie with some genuine insight into human existence and the nature of relationship.
Linklater's been doing such interesting work lately, and it's because he's never been afraid to experiment, mix things up, and try new things. I mean, this guy made a trilogy out of conversations on boardwalks (Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Midnight). He put animated cells over live action film... twice (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly)! He's shot in pseudo-documentary style on multiple occasions and intentionally made a studio set feel like a low budget hotel room that he just happened to rent one night. This feels like a natural step in his filmmaking career and its so incredibly interesting to see him play around with the foundations of filmmaking.
His cast clearly trusts and respects him as well. Ethan Hawke has worked with the director at least half a dozen times. And those films have enriched his career in a way most actors can't even begin to hope for. Patricia Arquette turned in one of her best performances in this movie. And to witness the performances he managed to pull from Ellar Coltrane and his own daughter, Lorelei over such an extended period of time is a somehow magical thing to experience.
I know it's like three hours long and that can seem like a trek for many filmgoers, but Boyhood is worth the sacrifice of half an afternoon. And I'd be surprised if it didn't rear its head come award season.