From a technical standpoint, Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is absolutely beautiful. The film was made in pieces over a period of twelve years. The film grew with the cast. That’s what devotion looks like. That’s also what parenting is about, what growing up is like- waiting and wondering what the developed piece will really turn out like. Taking stock of the lines drawn and redrawn by the actual experience versus your expectations.
Watching the film, I was hit every few minutes (seconds in the first quarter) with a surge of oneness with those of my generation. The STUFF! The music and clothing and attitude. It was so just out of the 90’s into the new age, I couldn’t help but drop-jaw over it. I burst laughing when Mason’s faceless teacher shut down his run on The Oregon Trail. That was an actual thing that happened to thousands of twenty-somethings in audiences across the country. Amazing. Or not amazing, just really comforting. It was also a confirmation that that era is now “Adulting”. We’ve been reviewed in cinema as kids of that time, now that this (soon to be classic) film is out.
In content, aside from my numerous personal associations to the story, what the characters are going through is worth the time of audience members because it is deeply relatable. It is strangely satisfying to sit back and watch this progression of years march on to the brink of Mason’s adulthood. It got me thinking about thresholds and the coming of age rituals of old. Mason doesn’t have as much to prove as many thousands of young men throughout history- he has stability, he has parents, he is educated and employed and employable. Still, his fears and all he doesn’t know are timeless.
Poverty, divorce, physical abuse, alcoholism, more divorce- the drama is abundant in the life of this family we follow through life for nearly three hours, but this is not a story like most others. It isn’t a narrative of dramatic survival against all odds. It doesn’t delve deep into the probable misery and insecurity of the mother, who works her ass off to secure all comforts, liberties, and opportunities for her children, nor does it explore the nature of the biological father’s immaturity. We don’t have P.O.V. shots or voiceovers, but we do have a focus on the things Mason notices. We are in his head in a very subliminal way. We absorb his interests and worries, not that of the people around him. This is done with grace on the part of the filmmaker. Linklater employed an extremely impressive set of narrative devices to carry viewers through the story as he desired, without any heavy-handedness. The film is valuable for many reasons, but this telling of the tale of growing up a boy is the most spectacular motivation of all.