Boyhood (USA, 2014)

boyhood-posterDirected by: Richard Linklater. At the risk of exaggeration, I have to say that Boyhood is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the top 10 movies (if not top 5) of the 21st century so far. And if I’m going to preach this thing, I’d better address the biggest thing that could potentially push people away from it, and that kind of kept me at arm’s length from it for so long, even after rave reviews: this is not a weepy, sentimental, conventional, “coming-of-age” family drama. Now that I’ve reassured you, I gotta let you in on a little secret…it’s definitely a coming-of-age family drama, and it might just make you weep, but it is definitely not conventional, and due to its unconventional nature, any sentiment that it builds on is really earned by the film, in my opinion. If you don’t know anything about it, it’s the genius film that actually did what a lot of people thought of doing for years, but never actually did—a movie about growing up that actually shows you real people growing up. Not real people like in the brilliant 7 Up series, which is powerful for the same reason, but real people in the sense that these four actors—Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelei Linklater—are all actual people, and their performances are captured on film for 3 days of shooting for 12 discrete “episodes” of growing up, for 12 summers, from 2002 to 2013. So what makes the movie brilliant, at no disservice to Linklater, who of course wrote and directed and made the deliberate choices to make this film great, but he was smart enough to just get out of the way and let life itself take us there, and let life itself unfold on the camera before us. Even though the character Ellar Coltrane is playing is not the same as his real personality and the circumstances of his real life, you’re still coming close, so tantalizingly close, to watching a person grow up, because in that basic sense, you literally are watching them grow up. You see how easy it is to overstate an obvious thing here, but I can’t impress to you how profound this movie is without trying to say anything profound. Don’t get me wrong—it’s still a Linklater movie, and the characters all have that same small-town Texas, philosophy with a reefer and a can of Lone Star, casual “deep thoughts” type of dialogue that peppered Slacker and Waking Life (and to my ears, when Mason/Ellar Coltrane talk, it even sounds like Linklater’s speech delivery a little bit), and if that puts some people off, fair enough. But that’s kind of kept to a minimum in this movie, and it’s accounted for by the fact that this is a teenager just getting used to his own two feet and exploring the world, etc. And really, it’s such a small part of the movie. When I say “profound” I don’t mean that stuff at all, I mean the overall film, the overall experience, the inconsequential moments here and there that make up life, all our lives. The performances of Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are so fucking good, they make a great set of separated parents, and you can really feel the love in that family between everyone, it feels very real, partially because, again, they’ve all actually been a “real” pretend family for 12 years, and they do feel emotion together. That speech by Patricia Arquette at the end, where she’s dealing with not being a mom anymore, is one of the most beautiful and sad things I’ve ever seen on film, and the fact that she got the Oscar enhances my esteem for that institution by about 100%. Definitely go see this thing, and I double dog dare you to keep your eyes dry by the end of the movie.


3 responses to “Boyhood (USA, 2014)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

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  3. Pingback: Dunkirk (USA/UK/France/Netherlands, 2017) | Offhand Reviews·

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