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On paper, and in far lesser hands, the premise of Boyhood would come across as a gimmick that would never make it past the idea stage. Leave it to Richard Linklater — the self-taught writer-director from Texas who ambled onto the independent film scene in the 1990s, sharing his insider’s vision of the alternative milieu in Slacker and Dazed and Confused (offering audiences a glimpse of the potential in one Matthew McConaughey) before embarking on a quixotic romantic journey (with co-conspirators Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise) that would become a full-scale odyssey in three-parts (thus far) — to pave the way for the kind of expansive creative thinking that would make a project like Boyhood seem perfectly plausible. Let’s follow a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, as he and his family — Mom (Patricia Arquette), Dad (Ethan Hawke) and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) — grow up before our eyes. The genius at work, though, which certainly involves a good bit of fortune and fate, is the inevitability that Boyhood must grow beyond this singular character into nuanced exploration of the entire family and the actors playing them. (R) Grade: A