Film Review: Boyhood

Boyhood

I missed seeing the film Boyhood in theaters so I rented it through U-Verse. It’s done about $25 million at the box office as of today, which is why it’s been relegated to video rental.

Despite it’s relative lack of commercial success, I recommend seeing it. Boyhood is a unique film that traces the lives of a family over an actual period of twelve years, using the same cast. The film was written and directed by Richard Linklater.

The film has an interesting narrative arc, since Mr. Linklater could not have written the whole story in advance. For example, there’s a whole riff about the impact of personal electronics and social media that rings very true and could not have been predicted with such precision were it written twelve years ago. Also, as you watch the film you will probably wonder whether or to what extent the events in the script echo things that happened in the lives of the cast members.

Another interesting thing about the film is that the cast ages. This creates a deep intimacy between the viewer and the characters, especially the namesake character of the boy, Mason, who begins the film as six year old in elementary school and ends it as an eighteen year old in his first year of college. You quite literally see him grow up in the course of the film’s two hour and forty-five minute running time.

As I was watching the film it became apparent that there is no antagonist, except perhaps life itself. These people just sort of wander around living their lives. The beginning and end of the film could have been chosen randomly. The director could have started a year earlier in the lives of the characters or ended a year later, in that there are no big events that punctuate the script or create a tremendous sense of drama, other than the type of life events that will seem very familiar to most people. And yet the film as a whole is very dramatic in a quiet way, by pointing out that most people’s lives are like that.

On a personal level, the film’s timeline is similar to the life of my daughter, who is now thirteen, so that resonated quite a bit. The songs used in the soundtrack are time specific as well and it was fun to take a stroll back in recent popular culture and remember what you were doing when your first heard a certain song. Kudos for throwing in one of my favorite songs by the band Wilco.

I’ve never seen another film like Boyhood. Mr. Linklater deserves a lot of credit for sticking to a project for twelve years to create a beautiful and unique work of art.

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