Boyhood (2014)
Reviewer: Autar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Running Time: 165 minutes

We marched to the AMC Woodlands theater, an hour’s ride from the house, to watch the 166-minute running time Boyhood. It was worth it. This classic movie follows a real timeline of 12 years of a boy’s life growing in a home broken by divorces and a “parade” of bad men in his mother’s life. Not to under-emphasize, it is not at all gloomy but a funny movie as well with conversations that are subtle and timely.

You will see the four main characters (“biological father”-mother-son-daughter) growing with unique semblance in the 166 minutes of your own life, and it will resonate at the right amplitude for many of you. In some ways, we ourselves are apples falling from the same tree; some of us just fall harder than others.

The movie is a bold experiment as well where the producers and directors had to trust the four main characters to stay with the film through the real time of 12 years. I especially liked the low key nature of the mother played beautifully by Patricia Arquette who exemplifies her own growth as an example for her children to teach ‘em what to do and what not to do! She is not afraid to show her yoyoing middle-age paunch and pleasantly plumpish body thru the 12 years. This kind of authenticity may have come naturally because of the filming timeline but that is the marvel we come to appreciate when we leave the theater.

The boy Mason played by Ellar Coltraine who tugs at your heart with his boyish looks and long strands of hair at age 6 grows into an awkward but tender teenager. He may have had the luxury of acting his age but he is surely going places. The father played by Ethan Hawke and the daughter by Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) have their own marked changes in the movie, but I am leaving the details for you to experience them for yourself.

The movie will leave you noticing little things as well – the wiper arc marks on the windshield and dusty dashboard of an old Toyota truck, a friend saying goodbye on a bike who vanishes from the screen behind the bushes in just a few seconds after his appearance, and the step-father drinking lots of vodka with a just a splash of sprite to make the medicine go down for his follies .

But the movie had me totally toward the end on a personal note. On coming back from his high school graduation, he is driven back to his house by his good friend for celebration in a reasonably new Toyota Corolla (I have driven the same brand since 1998) with a water-stained windshield. Nothing exemplifies the aura of dependability of family and independence of college years to follow like a Toyota Corolla –“maybe it is the moments that seize you”.

Published by

Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw ( is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare ( annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

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