“…Where does growing up end and where does aging start… Where does boyhood end?”
– Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater is one of those filmmakers that only come every once in a few generations. His films (most notably the “Before” Trilogy, “Dazed & Confused” and “Slackers”) are filled with characters that he allows to grow and mature without his aide. Like Ozu, Linklater has a tendency (specialty) in documenting simple stories with not so simple characters. His approach to filmmaking is not one that is seen often. There’s something to admire about there. In “Boyhood” Linklater makes time a character. Time is always changing, and because of it’s power, so are we.
“Boyhood” is not just a movie. It is a celebration of the “unmoments” that make up the greater idea of what it means to develop between the ages of six and 18. Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) did not live an extraordinary life. He would make both good and bad decisions just like anyone else. But that’s what made it so extraordinary. It’s a period piece set in the present, a small budget epic, a coming of age in real time.
From the moment that Mason first looks at a women’s underwear catalog to the moment he goes off to college, he was not the only one who matured. His mother (Patricia Arquette) is like any other single mom. Constantly searching for that one who will complete her traditional family unit while at the same time trying to preserve a “modern” view of the world. Three times she has tried all three she has failed. Only when both her children have left for college does she stop her search.
Her first attempt is Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke), a man who still lives like he is invincible. He tries to be an active part of his children’s lives by taking them to baseball games and camping trips so that they’ll have something to remember him by. At a baseball game as he goes on about player stats, his son asks him if he has a job. He of course answers this by getting defensive about the question. However it is a valid question. He matures slowly as he remarries, gets a job and sells his “young guy” car. He has become a functioning member of society, content with the idea that life does not have to be something else.
The film itself does not seem great at first viewing. It’s only after, when the memory machine is triggered. and life hits you like a freight train filled with its most terrifying and insignificant questions. One watches “Boyhood” and leaves with great philosophical questions. One question that Mason asks his father near the end of the film is, “What’s the point of anything?” His dad answers, “We’re all just winging it.” But are we? Are we really just rolling with the punches? Or do we try to follow a certain path by a certain compass? We go to school for a few years, go to school for a few more and then we pay taxes and live. Mason’s father demonstrates how sometimes the best roads in life are the ones that were not on the predetermined itinerary. He made memories with his children, remarried and lived.
Mason’s mother however, tried too hard to stay with her chosen path. At the end of the film, when Mason is leaving for college, she begins to cry. Mason asks what’s wrong and she describes her life as a, “list of milestones.” And after all that, there’s just her funeral. “I just thought there would be more.” And in that line she describes the disappointment in life that we will all one day experience.
When will we ever be contempt with life? When will there never be more? Why can’t we just assume that when it ends, it will be in a way that won’t be disappointing? Why must we plan what we will become? Can’t we just simply live and share the earth and our experiences? Life will be as much as we want it to be. So let’s not make a big deal about what we didn’t achieve, and celebrate what we did.