Boyhood is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Or anything you’ll probably ever see again.
The film itself is a little miracle. Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood is an intimate and reflective look at growing up (as told through the childhood of Mason – played by Ellar Coltrane – who grows up onscreen before our very eyes).
It’s impossible to watch Boyhood and not reflect on your own life – that is what makes it so moving and relatable.
Starting in 2002, Director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Bernie, Dazed and Confused) and his cast set aside a few weeks every summer to film the separate sections that make up Boyhood. It is truly a sight to behold as Ellar Coltrane (and his parents) age onscreen, going through their lives, Mason slowly transforming from boy to man.
The part people might find most surprising about Boyhood is it’s “story.”
It doesn’t really have one.
Or, at least, one that’s easily identifiable. If someone were to ask you what Boyhood was about, it’d be hard to pin it down into a sentence. The film is made up of a number of small vignettes, watching Mason grow up and go throughout life with his family and friends.
What’s shocking is that the film decides to skip all those “big” moments that often come to mind when we talk about growing up – his first kiss, the first day of high school, prom, his first job, getting his driver’s license – and instead invites us into the smaller, everyday moments of life that we take for granted.
Riding bikes with friends. Going bowling with dad and talking about girls. Taking a break from fishing to dip in a lake. Family dinners. Packing up to move. Roasting marshmallows and talking about ‘Star Wars.’
Life is the accumulation of small moments. And perhaps no movie has shown that more poignantly than Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
It’s incredible because it’s anticlimactic.
Think about that.
How many movies these days attempt to just show life for what it is? There’s a certain commonality to life that Boyhood captures, making us think about those moments in our own lives that everyone shares.
It could’ve easily gone for the big “Oscar” moments, but it keeps it small and intimate – it doesn’t even give us typical milestone markers like “1 year later” or “age 12.” It’s just life. Unfolding on the screen.
Boyhood doesn’t really have a “story.”
But that’s sort of the point.
Instead, it’s a poignant reflection on time itself – how it passes, and will continue to pass, whether we like it or not. It is a nostalgic ode to both growing up and parenting, and a “period piece” of the very age in which it was filmed. Even 12 years ago, it’s surprising to realize how different our culture was; the clothes, the phones, even the camera Boyhood was filmed with itself.
I could complain about how long Boyhood is, but I’m not going to. The movie is just too special to trifle about how it may go past where I, at least, thought it should have ended.
Boyhood could have gone very bad very easily – who can tell whether or not a 7-year old boy is going to grow into an actor capable of holding a film on his shoulders? Boyhood is the ultimate mainstream experimental film, and will surely be remembered as Richard Linklater’s personal masterpiece (They might as well just mail him his Oscar for Best Director now).
Boyhood is proof that filmmakers are still taking risks and trying new things. That’s reassuring in an age where movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction are breaking box office records.
The best movies are the ones that speak to us in our own experiences, make us look at things in a new way, and tell us something about our own lives – Boyhood, in all its beautifully ambitious simplicity, does exactly that.
Even if you don’t think it’s necessarily the best, or the most exciting, movie you’ve seen, I cannot recommend this film enough.
Just the sheer fact that it was made is amazing. The fact that it’s also a beautifully-told little story puts it over the top. And it’s only grown on me since seeing it. Boyhood is totally worth experiencing — not only because it masterfully captures the simplicity of life itself, but also because it will spur even the most cynical of moviegoers to look back on their own lives — where did all the time go?
© Matt Tory, 2014.