Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke
Year Released: 2014
The Life of Spoilers
Famous French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said that “The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.” I’ve always believed that the exact opposite was true. After all, most movies are about things that did not or cannot happen. Even if that old familiar disclaimer “Based on a true Story” is used, it just means that instead of the story being a hundred percent fake they’ve managed to shoehorn in a tenth of the true story. This is especially true whenever age or the passage of time is used. How many times has the viewing public been asked to believe that an actor in their twenties or thirties is a “kid” or that ten years have passed despite everyone’s appearances not changing? This lack of realism isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just one of the realities of moviemaking. Though, for every rule, there must be an exception.
“Boyhood” is that exception. In 2002 Director Richard Linklater undertook a nearly unbelievable task, he would tell the story of a boy’s childhood in real time. To everyone’s surprise (including mine) Linklater pulled it off. Filming in bursts over a twelve year period, “Boyhood” is a one of a kind movie. Before anything else is said, I have to dedicate a metric ton of respect to everyone who stuck with this film over the dozen years it was filmed. Extra special thanks (with a cherry on top) has to go to Ellar Coltrane who plays our titular boy and Lorelei Linklater who plays his sister. These two kids put the most awkward years of their lives up on the big screen and kept going with the movie despite not having any contract that would force them to keep going (stupid De Havilland Law).
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I haven’t been talking about “Boyhoods” plot much, and that’s because the movie’s plot is life itself. The story (if you could call it that) revolves around Mason Evans Jr. and his middle class, single parent Texas family and the ups and downs of their lives. Aside from his mothers divorced status and her poor taste in men (she seems drawn to a bunch of drunk assh&%$) Masons life isn’t much different than yours or mine. Mason clashes with authority figures, finds mentors, discovers his passions, dates girls, experiments with drugs, forms his own personal viewpoints and eventually heads off to College.
That’s one of the main complaints about “Boyhood” it’s so close to reality, that it’s not interesting anymore. While the perils of his mothers’ abusive boyfriends add some danger and excitement to the story, the thing that got me invested was seeing a glimpse of my own past. This allowed me to put myself in Mason’s shoes even though we lived different lives (seriously if you grew up during this time prepare for a massive nostalgia rush).
While the almost three-hour running time will likely discourage some, I thought the time when by quickly and I can’t remember being bored during any part of “Boyhood”. Though I also don’t remember being particularly invested either. In that way the story was like life itself, you don’t even notice it while it’s happening. On the character side of things, everyone gave very natural and realistic performances which seemed to be part of the problem for some people. I’ll admit that Mason as a character doesn’t have much agency or effect on the story, which is completely fitting given his age. Remember, most people don’t have much say on what happens to them in the first couple decades there alive. Still, there were a few surprises like Mason’s sister being the more rebellious teen and that Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke) the divorced dad trying to start a music career would be more of a functional adult than mom (Patricia Arquette). While it isn’t really an issue for this kind of movie the camerawork is very good and the Texas scenery looks great.
“Boyhood” is a confusing film because it’s like life. There are a few great moments and a few bad moments but mostly it’s just normal. That’s not saying that it wasn’t consistently watchable, just that the story wasn’t as extraordinary as how the movie was made. I suspect that the making of “Boyhood” might be more interesting than the movie itself. Despite all of this “Boyhood” is a phenomenal movie that deserves respect for reaching for the stars with its premise. I encourage everyone to go see just so creativity is encouraged and you see how close a strangers life is to your own.
Did I like the movie: Yes
Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it
Would I buy it: Yes, but the deluxe edition so I could see all the extra stuff
Facts of Life: Your right hand has never touched your right elbow; imagine how sad it must be.