“Some movies you watch for entertainment value. The stars, the suspense, the shiny. Others are more works of art to be admired. Boyhood falls firmly into the latter category. It’s long, has that indie feel to it, and there isn’t much of a throughplot. But as an artistic piece of cinema, holy cow it’s beautiful.
Boyhood revolves around Mason, a kid growing up in a broken home being schlepped across Texas by his Mom, who is trying to do the best she can by her family. The story spans 12 years, starting when Mason is 6 years old and continuing on until he moves out at 18. What’s so remarkable about that? Well, it was shot over the course of twelve years, with young star Ellar Coltrane being the actual age he’s portraying at each stage of the film. So basically writer/director Richard Linklater put together a screenplay, divided up into 12 different 10-15 minute segments. Every year, the cast would assemble for about a week to film that year’s piece. The result is seeing this child grow up in front of your eyes.
We’ve seen this phenomenon before in different ways. Harry Potter is probably the most well known example. Over the course of 8 movies, we saw that child cast grow up into young adults. But they were always fighting ficticious larger than life battles. Boyhood had realism and simplicity. A friend who had seen the movie beforehand described the scenes as mundane, but pointed out that it was the mundane that made things interesting.
I was particularly fond of the smaller references thrown in to let you know what year we were in. Music played a big role. Early scenes playing Blink 182 took me back 12 years, as newer scenes included more recent music. Some of the early ones also had some of the technology and fads of the time thrown in. That idea seemed to get tossed out later in the film, or at least downplayed. Still, I loved that Linklater had the foresight to showcase things like iMacs and older generation Game Boys.
Our supporting cast included Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. This may be the first time I’ve actually enjoyed seeing Arquette. Something about her style always struck me as forced, but the realistic structure of the film felt much more natural for her. You could argue that the whole thing was really about her. Her perception of her son and her journey of motherhood, as she struggled with various partners. I would have liked a bit more Ethan Hawke, as his semi-absentee dad did seem to skip a couple years here and there. He did bring a vivacity to the film that raised it up after some of the slower moments.
I also appreciated the Texas of it. I’ve been to Houston a bunch, and I’m really familiar with San Marcos. There was a point where I laughed out loud because the characters were complaining about there being nothing to do in San Marcos. My brain quickly replied that you could easily get to San Antonio or Austin. The next line was the other character saying they could go to San Antonio or Austin. Some of the other depictions of the Bible toting south was a little too accurate for me. But otherwise it made me connect to the film even better.
The praise I’ve heard about the film describes it as once in a lifetime, and it’s true. The logistics of pulling somethign like this off are tough, and this type of lightning isn’t likely to strike twice. There’s a lot that could have gone wrong that ruined the film, but it stuck together for 12 years of production. So if you want to view a film for its art and beauty, this is one to watch. If you just want to be entertained, I think you’ve got some more viable options out there.
Boyhood – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n