The title Boyhood suggests something definitive, perhaps even a statement on the essential nature of growing up. Which is not at all what this movie is. Made up of stray moments, occasional bits of melodrama, and a gentle sense of time drifting by, the film is much better represented by its working title: 12 Years. Nothing grand about that, just a description of the awkward age of life. (Writer/director Richard Linklater decided to go with Boyhood after 12 Years a Slave came into the world.)
12 Years would’ve also been shorthand for the film’s making. It was shot in the director’s native Texas in short bursts over a 12-year period—Linklater knew the shape of the film, but would tweak its script as time marched on, incorporating topical issues and reacting to his performers. This means that unlike most movies, which remake the world and impose an order on it, Boyhood reacts to the world; as 21st-century history and its actors’ personalities evolve, the movie is changed by those things.