Everyone I’ve met, movie buff or general viewer, has an opinion about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014). It came out last August after being filmed over a period of 12 years. I’ve heard, “Oh it’s so great, the perfect indie film, so inspiring!” Uh, alright. But I’ve also heard, “It was pretentious, I don’t even get what we’re suppose to get out of this.” Well then. I guess it’s up to me to decide which judge or praiser of this critically acclaimed movie is correct.
Boyhood is about a kid named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, living out his childhood, from the time he enters the first grade at age five, until his mother kicks him and his dirty goatee out the door and into college at age 18. Coltrane’s character became self aware and inquisitive about life itself, which most likely paralleled the stages Coltrane took as he grew out of his own boyhood. This style of directing took these actors out of their normal lives for only one week per summer for 12 consecutive years, creating a unique method of filming unheard of before this time and caused people to talk nonstop about it.
As I watched the film, I felt as if I was watching real life play before my eyes rather than a plot of a movie, which was the intention. Everything the actors did was completely raw and realistic to their own lives, especially for the children. At the beginning of the film, the older sister smacks her brother in the face with a pillow at 6 a.m. just to sing Britney Spears, and I felt connected this character, as I too have been that sister many times. Because the story was driven by time rather than plot, the soundtrack and wardrobe choices gave the film structure where it needed it, without forcing a plot into natural life. Coming-of-age themes came through deliberately and subtly, because reality doesn’t give you checkpoints to move past in order to officially “grow up.” Watching this movie made me feel like there was a camera watching my own every move, like my own life could be Oscar-nominated if there was a crew behind me. That sense of reflection is what gives the movie such depth and consciousness that can rarely be found in today’s hit blockbusters and dystopian genres.
However, when it came to the realizations that Coltrane’s character had, my experiences throughout the movie at first felt cheated and cheap. At the end, Mason agrees with a new college friend that (spoiler alert) “we don’t seize the moment, the moment seizes us.” As it was the last scene, there is major importance to this new understanding. I’ve had many people tell me with great force that this scene is an attempt to be profound, but that hearing a young white male talk about the meaning of life is repetitive and overdone. I, too, am tired of the default white male protagonist, and I could go on about why this movie wasn’t focused on the sister and called Girlhood. But I realized that whatever arrogance was included in the final scene of Boyhood was necessary for the overarching idea of growth and knowledge. People that have been telling me that the end was too predictable aren’t fully aware of themselves in a way that is necessary to fully connect with Linklater’s intentions. Maybe we are convinced that every white young man in American films is what we all can relate to only because that is the only thing given to us by the film industry as a whole, but it is true that the majority of movie viewers will relate to one character or another in this film. My peers who think that Coltrane’s character is attempting to find meaning in a life that already has one probably have just left this stage of self awareness themselves, or worse, are probably still in it. Are we so wrapped up in our own pretentiousness that we can’t stand to see it mimicked on screen?
This movie was built up a lot and to an interesting end. I am naturally pessimistic about the intentions of entertainment in general; I expected the more critical group to be correct. Like any movie that can be discussed at length and often way too much, I thought my experience would feel drawn out and lifeless, as I felt I had already seen it before the movie even started. However, I found myself enjoying the movie immensely but not necessarily for the reasons the pro-Boyhood moviegoers did. I liked the movie because I reflected on myself as I watched Mason and Samantha grow older naturally, just how I’ve seen myself grow over the last 20 years. This method of filming may not be revolutionary, but it was effective for Linklater’s vision and how it grasped audiences by the heartstrings. It’s important to see myself from an outside point of view at this time of my life, and critically viewing Boyhood allowed me to do so.
How has one or many people’s movie experience influenced the way you watched it? Contact me by email (email@example.com) or on twitter (@emdefaz10)
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