Written and Directed by Richard Linklater
Growing up is hard and coming of age is never easy; first kisses, relationships, sexual experiences and the like never turn out the way it does in the movies. It’s never pretty, with acne, temper tantrums and trying to understand one’s parents that is all part of the process. In the film Boyhood, director Richard Linklater tells the story in real-time of one boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his journey into becoming an adult. Boyhood is like nothing I have ever seen and there has never been a movie quite like it. Before the audience’s eyes the boy grows up into a man and we see how the moments in his life shape who he is and the way he chooses to live his life.
Just like they say in physics, every action causes a reaction, and the same can be said for Mason’s life. In the beginning he is 6 years old, his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is a struggling single mom, trying to raise him and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). After a failed relationship with a boyfriend, she decides to pack the family and move to Houston so she can go back to college and get a degree in Psychology.
In Houston, their father Mason (Ethan Hawke) finally comes through and starts to see his kids. He does the usual weekend dad activities like bowling, camping and buying them cool gifts. At the bowling alley and in the car, he always tries to coerce them to talk and tell him about their lives, but they do the usual kid thing and give one or two word answers. Throughout out the film, this is his usual way of working with his kids, he gives them advice along the way about the opposite sex, dating, love and his life lessons as a struggling musician.
Their mother is the rock of the family, even if she disagrees with her kids, she is always there for them and trying to make the best decisions possible with what she is given. She goes through husbands and failed relationships; all the time Mason is there to witness the rise and fall of her love connections. Always from a distant, as a young boy he sees the fights, the moments when his mom seems interested in someone new and the point in which he looks at her and knows that the relationship is doomed.
I won’t go through the entire movie because I would be writing a novel and we could be here all day. In fact, you could record me writing it and watch me age right in front of your eyes. The film moves from Mason being a child, we see him throw temper tantrums and not want to wake up for school, then he moves into pre-teen mode and he is a bit rebellious and curious and from there we see him grow up into a young adult. With that comes acne, piercings, disobedience, wanting to hang out with friends and drink and smoke pot and his growing interest in girls.
As Mason changes, so does his sister and their relationship. As kids, brothers and sisters always fight, but as they grow older, the bond is deeper and they help each other out through the tough situations.
With his mother he starts to realize she is just like him, she searches for a better life and aspires to goals, but all the while she doesn’t really know what she wants. Just because you are an adult, it doesn’t mean you have life figured out.
In his father, we see him grow up, in the beginning he is a hapless, cool, hip musician and in the end we see him tackle life with a different sense of vigor and maturity.
At the end of the movie, and I am not spoiling anything by saying this, he meets a girl who says “do people seize moments or do moments seize you?” This could be said for the entire movie, the moments in our lives make us who we are. Even moments that seem insignificant to one person are huge to the other. When parents spout off random things to their kids, we see that these notions stick with kids. This movie, to sum it up is about those stolen moments in life that are never filmed, they are simply memories, but ones that stay with us for the rest of our lives. They shape who we are, they guide our decisions and in the end we can choose to learn from them.
The lessons that Mason’s father tells him in the car about music, how he teaches him what he considers to be good and bad music, reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own father. We bonded over the years with music as the pretense, but in reality he was teaching a lot of other life lessons in between that maybe I didn’t understand then, but I do now. I liked how those moments were shown and depicted in the film.
Many times people will go out buy the most expensive camera on the market and think they will become awesome photographers, 9 times out of 10 it is not the case. It is not the camera that makes a great photo or movie; it’s the person behind the lens and their creative talent. Linklater reminds me of this point, give him any camera and he’ll make you a great movie. Linklater has never let cinematic conventions constrain him or box him into what Hollywood wants to create or produce.
From a cinematography standpoint, this movie was beautifully done. The images of Mason looking out the car window and letting his hand flow through the air are beautiful, yet very familiar.
Making this movie was a risky move and I commend Linklater for taking on this project. So many things could have gone wrong in the process, but over the course his risk proved beneficial as I believe this is one of the best movies I have seen this year.
One of the best parts of the film is that we as the audience never get jolted into seeing Mason grow. His maturation and the proof of it was fluid and it tied in seamlessly from scene to scene.
The soundtrack was awesome as well. When Mason looks out the car window over the years, and even later when he drives, the music goes along with the way he seems to be ruminating about his life and current situation. I especially liked the scene when Mason Sr. and his roommate at the time sing a country-like song about his strained relationship with the children’s mom.
The actors in this film all did a phenomenal job. Starting with Coltrane, virtually an actor we have never seen before stayed committed to the project by not taking on other movies. I think this helped the film because we never had any preconceived notions or biasness towards this actor. We watched him grow, we got to know him and he felt like someone new in our life. I look forward to seeing him take on more roles and grow as an actor, as I believe he has a lot of potential.
Hawke gave an outstanding performance. Honestly, to me along with Coltrane he stole the movie. He was able to convey the sense that regardless of his lack of understanding on how to be a parent, he was always a caring confidant to his children. It shows that people make mistakes, there is no parenting book out there that can pave the correct road, but he tries and that is what is important.
Arquette also delivered as both poignant and endearing. She is the epitome of the mother who wants the best for her children, yet she doesn’t always have the right answer. I don’t think our parents ever really know how to do it right and she shows that mothers are human too and not just robots who know it all.
Overall this movie has so many messages weaved into it and they are never specifically called out and I enjoyed that about this film. Had the movie been narrated, we would have been guided as to what to think or make of it, instead we walk out of the theater with our own spin as to what everything that was shown really meant. I saw this movie a few weeks ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Life is hard, learning life’s lessons are equally troublesome and difficult, but they happen, they come in our face when we least expect it and they are the moments that make us grow up.
Boyhood is like looking down a microscope, in it we see the microcosm that is growing up and becoming an adult, we observe, we study and we come up with our own conclusions about it. For me personally, this is my favorite movie of 2014 thus far, I hope it gets some recognition when award season comes around. If you like movies that delve deep and are a little artsy, then you may enjoy this one. Linklater is like Wes Anderson, you are either a fan or you absolutely hate it, if you are in the Linklater camp, then you will most definitely love this film. And if you are not, take a risk and watch it, you might just be surprised.
(Coltrane and Linklater)
**PS this is probably my longest review thus far. I apologize for the lengthiness, but hopefully I helped you make a decision as to whether or not you should watch this film.