Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood

Directed by Richard Linklater, U.S., 2014

By D.G. McCabe

What stays with us?  We cherish, despise, and question the memories of our childhood.  Boyhood isn’t a story as much as it is an exploration of those memories.

Boyhood begins with six year old Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and ends with the same character as an eighteen year old man.  Through his perspective, we see dozens of the little moments in his life.  Many of these moments are tied to a larger narrative about Mason and his family.

His interactions with his father (Ethan Hawke in one of his best performances), mother (Patricia Arquette), sister (Lorelei Linklater), and the other adults in his life progress throughout the film from relationships of authority into relationships of partnership.  Mason himself evolves from a shy, introverted child into a friendly and level headed adult.  The fluidity of these transitions are impressive, but even more so when you consider that this project was filmed over a number of years between various other projects.

The real strength of the film isn’t in the moments that are connected to the story of Mason or his family, however.  The film shows us the random moments of Mason’s life that are unconnected with the overall plot.  Who doesn’t remember that pop culture event or those random interactions with other children?  They wouldn’t make it into anyone’s biography, including Mason’s, but we carry them with us nonetheless.

When I first heard about the Boyhood project, I was concerned that it would be a showcase for Linklater’s biggest weakness.  His characters are usually simultaneously obsessed with the past and afraid of the future, which wouldn’t be so much of a problem if they would just shut up about it for second.  After all, as much as we enjoy checking in on Jesse and Celine in the “Before” series, we probably wouldn’t like them very much in real life.   Fortunately, I found an inspired piece about the relentless march of time and moments that stay with us.

You might like Boyhood if: You are intrigued by ambitious film projects, notably ones involving coming of age stories.

You might not like Boyhood if: You are in the mood for something shorter and with more action.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe