This film is unique because of its structure. It is a fictional account of young boy, Mason, growing up over 12 years, using the same actors in real time. Yes, the film took 12 years to make, and not because of development hell, but because of life. We are introduced to six year old Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, his older sister (Lorelei Linklater) and his father (Ethan Hawke) and through vignettes from mainly Mason's point of view, we watch him grow up and go to college. All of this feels natural and compelling eskewing the traditional plot structures of fictional film making in favour of a more documentary style akin to the 7 up series, but without the interviews.
The everyday life, the recognition of familiarity of the conversations between characters draw you in. There is no authorial judgement, just subtle story telling that allows the moment to breathe. Richard Linklater set out to make a movie about childhood (here is an interview about the making of the film), but what he also captures is the life, dream, expectations, responsibilities and adults as well, as we see his parents repeating mistakes, gaining some wisdom, settling on choices and not really changing, no matter how old you get. Patricia Arquette shines as Mason's mother as her story as an adult from a 30 year old to early 40s is just as compelling as Mason's childhood. Ellar Coltrane is wonderful as Mason, his soulful truthfulness inhabits the movie as you see him inhabit this character and you cannot help wonder how blurred the line between Mason and Ellar became over the years. Go and immerse yourself in this film and enjoy. Watch the Q&A with Linklater and the cast at Sundance 2014 below.