Any parent who savors raising children will feel at home with Richard Linklater’s remarkable Boyhood, a moving tribute to the persistent, seldom appreciated, often frustrating, and always essential difference that parents bring to every year of a child’s life.
Without getting caught up in artificial drama, or injecting unnecessary conflict, Linklater presents a reality that all parents face, that some days are better than others, some decisions more correct, some guidance more effective. All we can hope, as we reflect, is that our kids will someday realize we do the best we can.
While the film follows a family’s ups and downs over 12 years — during which they face changes in marital status, home location, school orientation and emotional priorities — what makes Boyhood unique is how writer/director Linklater shot the movie over the same period, starting in 2002. Each year he would assemble his cast to film that part of the story, an approach that gives characters a freedom to change and relationships to develop. This fascinating approach — unheard of, to date, in narrative filmmaking — gives the film a sense of authenticity that fuels its story with emotional richness.
In a brave performance, at once emotionally raw, always transparent and consistently clear, Ellar Coltrane begins his on-camera evolution as Mason, a boy of seven with a bossy older sister, a well-intentioned but confused mother, and an absent father. When his mother relocates the family to Houston — and returns to college to secure a better future — the family begins a roller coaster ride through emotional and financial highs and lows. Mason is the kind of young boy you meet next door, fascinated with video games, sluggish about homework and curious about the world. As he progresses through adolescence, and eventually discovers his distinct view of the world, he learns how to rely on his internal voice without bending to what others may expect. And while he may not thank his mother for what she does, he quietly acknowledges the sense of belonging that even a disorganized family can experience.
Mason’s relationship with his father is, perhaps, more central to his identity. With great care, Ethan Hawke — who worked so well with Linklater in the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy — turns what could be a one-dimensional view of a “downbeat dad” into a giving man who learns to fulfill his obligations without losing his sense of humor, positive outlook and love for his children. He helps Mason absorb the importance of being patient with those we love, always believing their best days are ahead, always hoping they remember what we share when times get tough. Hawke gives the film the foundation to frame how Coltrane changes over the years.
Because Linklater’s approach to the story is so creative — with its subtle changes in appearances and references to historical moments — he visually tells his story without relying on conventional gimmicks. We see the changes that life brings, and the wrinkles that time will add, because they happen before us. Linklater inspires us to believe every frame and savor each moment with a most interesting family.
Yes, children grow and, at times, may forget what we try to provide as parents. Boyhood reminds us that hearing words of thanks is not why we parent. It’s the pride we experience when our children discover their own voices.
Film Nutritional Value
* Content: High. With breathtaking care and remarkable simplicity, writer/director Richard Linklater creates a remarkable journey through 12 years of a family’s life. And he has the audacity to film the story, one segment at a time, over the same period.
* Entertainment: High. As thoughtful as the content may be, and as serious as some situations the family may face, Linklater keeps the proceedings human and the characters accessible.
* Message: High. No matter what may challenge our families, the richness of life comes from the time we share and memories we create.
* Relevance: High. Any chance for a family to spend time together, and reflect on what we mean to each other, is always relevant.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Despite its R rating, take the time to share this special film with your older children and, together, let each other know how much you mean to the people you share life with.
(Boyhood is Rated R for sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use. The film runs 166 minutes.)
5 Popcorn Buckets