“Boyhood” Shows Life in the 2000s Through the Eyes of a Child
In August of 1994, a boy named Ellar Coltrane was born. In 2002, director Richard Linklater approached this boy to star in a film unlike anything ever made before. The film, “Boyhood”, took 12 years to complete, and the result is breathtaking. Coltrane, who plays Mason Jr., was 6 years old at the beginning of the film’s production, and as time goes by throughout the movie, the audience can see him age naturally and realistically into the 18 year old young man seen in the final shot. His face shifts over the years. His voice changes. He grows a small beard that probably looks a little too ratty. He feels like a real human, transforming from a child staring at the sky into a curious teenager, searching for his way in life. The final product is purely magical, and I’ll admit that I was crying at more than one spot in the film during my first viewing.
The film itself is basically about nothing. It’s a slice of life, following Mason and his small family through ups and downs, marriages, divorces, first loves, first beers, awkward adolescent years, and so much more. And that is exactly the beauty of it. The movie creates an entirely believable world that is both unique, and relatable on a very personal level
Some things about growing up are universal. Sure, not everyone is a white boy who lives in Texas, but that doesn’t matter at all as soon as the movie begins. The humanity in every happiness and struggle shines through in every frame.
Despite the fact that the movie is called “Boyhood”, there are remarkable performances from the entire cast, revealing a truthful look at the pains and joys of life from every side of a family. Patricia Arquette, the star of the long running TV show “Medium”, plays Mason’s mother, Olivia, Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter, plays Samantha, Mason’s slightly older sister, and Ethan Hawke plays their father, Mason Sr.
Nostalgia drips through the cracks in this movie, and I assume most people who were born around 1994 will feel the same way. Because of the 12-year production schedule, and the fact that the film is set in real time, Mason’s childhood, or boyhood, coincides directly with mine, and the childhoods of most current college students. This is a film about us. It’s a film for us. It’s a film that will be remembered for years to come; not because of the crazy special effects or star studded cast, but because it’s real and true in a way that most films couldn’t even dream of being.
I was once told that “The Social Network” would be the film that defines our generation, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think “Boyhood” is a much better fit. A simple scene in the middle of the movie shows Mason and Samantha attending the midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” at a book store. It lasted a couple of seconds, but in that couple of seconds, I felt a connection to this character. I remembered my uncle taking my sisters and me to go see the second Harry Potter movie’s midnight release. I felt like this kid could have been me, or maybe a friend of mine that I lost contact with. Every scene feels like a part of the world that seems universally part of every 90’s kid’s life.
Still, even if Harry Potter premieres isn’t as universal of a thing as I’d like to think, Linklater expertly weaves more adult stories into the film. Mason and Samantha’s parents, Olivia and Mason Sr., struggle through trying to connect with their children while also trying to find out who they are as individuals, and what they truly want. A scene toward the end of the film shows Olivia breaking down as Mason Jr. packs for college. She cries, lamenting her life as she realizes that her youngest child is leaving, and that she is a three-time divorcee who never felt like she found her place in the world. In a perfect culmination of acting and storytelling, Olivia breaks, revealing her internal existential crisis, sobbing, “I just thought there’d be more.”
There’s a little something beautiful that pops out from every corner of this film, and viewing it all through the perspective of a child becoming a man is a cinematic experience unlike any other.