Movie Review: Boyhood – 2014, Richard Linklater
Clean slates, fresh starts, and new hopes for a broken world. Childhood is a time of wonder and discovery, learning what works and what doesn’t, and we would all do well to keep some portion of our grown up “operating system” dedicated to sustaining that worldview.
Richard Linklater’s 2014 film Boyhood serves as his reminder of that sentiment. Ambitiously filmed over 12 years, using the same actors, Linklater portrays a boy’s growth from six-year-old child into (quasi-)adulthood.
Linklater is perhaps best known for his films that depict a single “day in the life,” like Dazed and Confused and his Before . . . series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight). Nevertheless, his penchant for romanticizing the mundane in these films make the spirit of Boyhood a natural fit for him.
The film follows the life of Mason, a son of divorced parents. Through Mason’s eyes, we puzzle over the failed union of his parents and odd dichotomies of life, like youthfulness and adulthood, function and dysfunction.
Despite being a single mother of two, his mother (Patricia Arquette), wills her way through school to become an inspiring college professor, while his father (Ethan Hawke) follows a more gradual trajectory toward adulthood, at one point seeming comically confused by Mason’s question of whether he even has a job.
Both parents clearly have flaws, but one of the more touching aspects of the film is that, even while they can not reconcile their differences with each other, both demonstrate genuine affection for Mason and his older sister, Samantha. Boyhood is almost as much a tribute to parenthood is about “the boy” himself.
As a married father of five, I grow more aware every day of the fragile, fleeting nature of childhood and parenthood.
Both combine for a profound roller coaster experience. Ups, downs, twists, turns. Sometimes I’m nearly certain I’m going to be sick, while other times . . . God, what amazing thrills!
Boyhood leaves me with that sense, like a nostalgic afternoon. Some scenes carry tremendous weight for the characters involved, while other scenes are just vapors in the grand scheme.
It’s not a perfect film and might not even be Linklater’s best, but it is as genuine as it is ambitious, and I’m glad to see it delivering the filmmaker some long-deserved praise.
Boyhood score: 4 Falcone Rings