Amy Taubin at Artforum:
TIME FLIES in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which is both a conceptual tour de force and a fragile, unassuming slice of movie life. Two hours and forty minutes in length, it depicts the maturation of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from a six-year-old child into an eighteen-year-old young adult. There has never been a fiction film quite like it.
“‘The clay of cinema is time.’” Tarkovsky’s axiom, paraphrased by Linklater in a conversation we had recently over the phone, has guided the director ever since Slacker (1991)—as has his own corollary that a film should be “locked in the moment and place of its making.” Linklater’s second feature,Slacker was emblematic of a generation—and of a promising moment in American independent film, when a handful of directors eschewed Hollywood production values and conventional dramatic structure to combine the influences of European art cinema with distinctly American imagery and culture. Set in Austin, where, in 1985, Linklater founded a film society in order to show such personal favorites as Tarkovsky, Bresson, Godard, and James Benning, Slacker perambulates a mile-long strip bordering the University of Texas campus, connecting by happenstance more than fifty incidents and roughly a hundred characters within a single day. In 1991, when Todd Haynes’s Poison won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival, jury member Gus Van Sant said that his vote had gone to Slacker. Haynes puts his formalism up front; Linklater buries his in the bedrock of his narratives. And if Jim Jarmusch is the post-Beat cinematic bard of rust-belt bohemians and downtown hipsters, then Linklater is the Longfellow of a less glamorous alt-culture—one that could pass for mainstream America, whatever that is. Jarmusch’s protagonists are loners. Linklater creates characters who marry, have kids, divorce, have jobs, and struggle to pay the rent and child support. He is a visionary of everyday life.