Boyhood: A Story for Everyone
Boyhood is an unequivocal triumph. I had not been convinced. It took me ages to get in the theater. I mean, twelve years is a long time; so much could have gone wrong. Luckily for us, twelve years was enough time to put together a story for the ages. This film was not made by a man looking for the next big, forgettable blockbuster, but by a storyteller who cannot help but shape the world through his passion for film. Richard Linklater has told probably the most important story that can be told. It does not matter who you are on planet earth; it is the one aspect of life in which we all can relate. Sure, we all do it differently, and we all have different experiences, but it is the experiences we have which shape us into who we become. Boyhood tells us the story of growing up. It tells us that growing up is constant; one is never done learning, experiencing, struggling.
Let’s set the scene. It is bedtime, and Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) are listening intently as mom (Patricia Arquette) reads Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Early another morning, Mason is woken up abruptly by his sister who immediately starts singing “Oops, I Did it Again.” (A timely song we kids of the late 90s, early 00s all enthusiastically sang along to.) Some time passes and mom decides it is time to move on, and the three move to a new home. This is the first time we are introduced to dad (Ethan Hawke). He is the typical ‘cool guy’ dad who only sees his kids every so often, but when he does, he is the hero. He’s a nice man, and a good father when he is around, and if he and the mother had met at a different point in their lives, it may have worked out. Instead, mom falls for the professor of a psychology class that she is taking. Unfortunately, he turns out to be the evil stepfather, and not quite prince charming. He is a drunk and an abuser, and in one chilling scene, his children, Mason, Samantha, mom are subjected to a fearsome display of anger during dinner. Mom decides she cannot allow herself to be broken by this man or let him influence her children in any way. Unfortunately, Mason must leave the new step siblings he has come to care for. It is for the best, however, and once again, the family is off to a new home.
Life goes on. We visit the many stages of ‘awkward’ and discovery, love and heartbreak. Quite honestly, to sum up twelve years in one paragraph is a rather difficult feat. And reducing the entire film into a few sentences really will not do it justice, nor will the story sound as fascinating as it truly is when portrayed on screen. The beauty of this film is in its honesty. The little everyday moments that are overlooked in most movies, but cherished in real life are what drives the charm and paints the picture of what it is to grow up. I cannot tell you how many times I gasped, thinking, “Wow. This is my life!” From divorce, to an abusive male ‘role model,’ from awkward hair dye jobs to my mom reading Harry Potter at bedtime, I experienced much of what Mason and his sister did as a child. One scene in which Mason and his sister go to a midnight release of a Harry Potter book actually brought me right back to my childhood: dressing up, the butterflies, the pure, ecstatic joy when I had that crisp, beautiful book in my hands for the first time… People all over have experienced exactly what Mason, his sister and mother have.
At one point in the film, Mason’s mom delivers a monologue that I almost thought my own mother had written. She talks about how her life is basically over. Her son and daughter went to their first days of school, got their first jobs, fell in and out of love, and are now off to college. She spent the first half of her life accumulating crap, and she will spend the second half getting rid of it all. I found myself thinking of the ABBA song “Slipping thorough my Fingers.” While Mason kindly points out that she is getting ahead of herself by about forty years, the truth in that tale is all too real. We forget that time flies. We take for granted those who we care for most. We think, you have always been here, therefore you will always be here. Boyhood captures the moments often forgotten about, and the themes of life that make us different from animals. It is quirky and charming throughout, causing the more serious moments to be that much deeper.
Usually, here I would mention a few issues I have with the film, but it is quite difficult for me to think of any. The only slight qualm I have is with the length. However, like I said it was near impossible to write about twelve years in a paragraph, I can let Linklater get away with putting twelve years into two hours and forty-two minutes. The acting is not Oscar worthy by any means, but that is not to say is it poor. In fact, I found it all to be quite realistic. I saw only real people, not ‘actors,’ even though Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are some pretty big names. Truly, I cannot find anything terrible worth mentioning.
Boyhood is a revolutionary piece of art. It may tell the most important story ever told; growing up is constant, and it will all work out. Watching this little boy grow up before your very eyes is something to behold. It is never jarring, but only seems natural to see Mason move through the different stages of life. No matter who you are, how or where you were brought up, I guarantee some aspect of this film will resonate with you. This film teaches us that no matter how difficult our situation gets, no matter the obstacles and just plain crap that will get thrown our way, we should never let life pass us by. Boyhood brings back the optimism.
Release Date: August 15, 2014
Run Time 2:42
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Directed by Richard Linklater. With Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Elijah Smith. The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.