Boyhood is that interesting movie that doesn’t feel like a movie. It feels like watching life unfold. The acting, dialogue and direction are so naturalistic its as if you happened upon someones home videos. The gimmick, if you want to call it that, is that the movie was filmed over 12 years with the same actors. The story moves in and out of the characters’ lives at random times, not showing every big event or milestone.
Boyhood is the story of a daughter and son, their single mom and their absent dad who comes back into their lives when the son, Mason, is six and tries to be a more integral part of their lives.
Its easy to dismiss a film like this for all the same reasons its praised. Its quiet and the snapshots of life will resonate with everyone because its the one film that’s not about a big life-changing moment, discovery or tragedy. Its about the everyday moments that actually make up life. Boyhood is one of the most honest films yet it is also one of the most manipulative.
Manipulative, you ask. Don’t worry, I mean it in a positive way. Boyhood breaks film tropes and expectations in almost every scene. The film is impressive for the way it plays against ingrained storytelling devices. I don’t know if it was director and writer Richard Linklater’s intension to make a film that subverts standard narrative but that ends up being a significant reaction to and part of watching the film.
It takes about an hour and a half into the almost three hour film to start settling into the pacing and realize the twist or climax isn’t coming. Linklater shows almost every symbol of danger in the course of the film without a single instance leading to any turning point. He shows characters playing with blade saws, shooting guns, driving erratically while drunk, looking at a cell phone while driving and even a seemlingly innocuous trampoline scene, which in any other movie would be the impetus for the real story of loss, death or a life-changing moment.
As a huge fan of the Before Trilogy, I know the power of Linklater’s words and his ability to get realistic performances from his actors, especially Hawke. As the too-cool-for-parenting Dad in the beginning of the film to the un-cool responsible adult in the end, you get a portrait of a man trying his best. And while Patricia Arquette’s Mom tries to keep everything afloat, she makes some understandable missteps. This is not a story of good versus bad parenting or life decisions. Its just how those decisions sometimes matter and are sometimes forgotten by the next scene.
From an awards standpoint, Boyhood doesn’t seem like it has anything going for it. Its not flashy, there is no inventive camerawork, no special effects, and its not a biopic. On the other hand, that’s exactly the reason almost every person who talks about it feels some connection to it.
What was your reaction to Boyhood? Were you waiting for something horrible to happen?