In another director’s hands, the movie Boyhood could have been cheesy or gimmicky. The very idea of it sounds a bit hokey: “a movie where you literally watch a boy grow up before your eyes.” Filmmaker Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, Dazed and Confused, dozens of other great movies – also my favourite director) filmed it a few weeks a year, over twelve years, from when the starring actor was five to when he turned eighteen. The actors are the same throughout the twelve years, and you watch them age and change, and a story of a family develops.
In Linklater’s hands, this conceit works. It more than works. Watching Boyhood is like living life, 12 years of it, sped up into 3 hours. Like many of Linklater’s works, the focus is on putting the spotlight on those little, imperfect, mundane moments that don’t feel like they deserve to be talked about or seen.
At the end of the movie (this isn’t really a spoiler, it’s just a line), one character says to another, “You know how everyone is always saying to ‘seize the moment’? I think it’s just the opposite.” And the other character, admittedly a little stoned, answers, “Yeah, it’s like, moments are always seizing us.” And then they both kind of laugh, because they are high and life is good and right and just for a moment, beautiful.
What they say about moments seizing us is very much what the movie itself wants to do. It wants to show you those little moments and seize your heart. It wants to remind you that those moments where you chat with your mom over a bowl of cereal, where you’re jumping on a trampoline with your siblings, where you’re playing Wii with a new friend…those moments matter. And that every moment, even if you don’t realize it, is beautiful enough to capture on film.
There’s so much to say about this film. There are scenes and moments that my husband and I discussed over and over during dinner. And there are questions to ask about how it was filmed, why certain cuts and edits were made, why choose this moment over that.
|The many faces/changes of Boyhood star Ellar Coltrane|
After watching, my husband and I discussed everything from the actor who plays the boy, Mason – who was at the screening we were at, and who was lovely and articulate and kind of calm but overwhelmed by how people were reacting – to how the parents could have been the central figures in the story with just a few tweaks in editing.
This film is an achievement – not just because of the sheer amount of planning and the grandiosity of believing you can get the same actors together for twelve years – although that is a giant achievement in itself (Ellar Coltrane told us at the screening that you can only contract people for seven years, so they did that, and then Linklater just hoped that they would still be interested in filming).
For me, it’s an achievement because it feels like it conveys the truths that Linklater the filmmaker believes about life and its meaning. In movies like Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused, and Slacker, Linklater showed bits and pieces of his philosophy, but he has never been more subtle or successful in what he does. Boyhood presents life, the rawness and the pain, the bumps and nicks, and the triumph and beauty of simultaneously living in the moment and being completely unaware of the perfection and beauty of life.
Have you watched Boyhood? If not, would you watch it? Are you interested in the conceit of the movie? Have you watched any of Linklater’s other movies (if you haven’t, PLEASE go now!)? How much do you notice or think about the little moments in life? Sound off in the comments!