‘Boyhood’ demands to be seen

By Isaac Simon

(Courtesy of IFC Films)
(Courtesy of IFC Films)

Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood” is a riveting film that dispels the old cliché of perpetual youth.

The film – a masterpiece that was shot over a span of 12 years – documents the life of the main character Mason (Ellar Coltrane) starting with the initial post toddler years and concluding with his final sendoff to college.

Set in Houston, Texas, it is a film that comes full circle. Linklater as a director is relentless when it comes to shining a light on even the smallest of characters in an effort to come off as a conscious writer and director.

People can say what they want about the constructive criticism “Boyhood” has gotten, but in my view, I would not pay much attention to it, partly because I concur with the majority opinion (if that’s what you would consider it) that it is the best film of the last 30 years. This is because “Boyhood” is more than just a film about a boy, or an interesting documentation project into the life of the unconventional family, it is a necessary film that everyone should see.

“Boyhood” is indeed a coming-of-age film. When seeing the film in the theatre, I could not help but make comparisons to “The Graduate” (Mike Nichols, 1967), when Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) is having his nightcap and tells Ben (Dustin Hoffmann), “Cause you know Ben, You’ll never be young again.”

In “Boyhood” each new scene is indeed a new chapter of each character’s life. Although it is not a time lapse, it is totally understandable why the viewer would assume that Linklater has implemented that technique, in an effort to mark the progression of time.

Although rare, “Boyhood” is not the only film to have been shot over a period of more than a decade. Paul Almond’s “Seven Up!” (1964) garnered a lot of its own attention when it came out 50 years ago.

“Boyhood” is a necessary film because it can apply to anyone who resonates with teen angst. Aside from extreme circumstances, everyone, at one point or another, grows up. The evolutionary process from boyhood to manhood is by no means a rare occurrence. Most people experience it. The process is different for everyone. There is simply not one way to grow up. In the film, Linklater documents a family that is in a constant state of motion. The mom (Patricia Arquette) is in some senses always putting all of her eggs in one basket in an effort to provide a steady and healthy upbringing for her two children. Her first ex-husband, Dad (Ethan Hawke), got divorced a while back and their move to Houston evidently reunites the children with the father. Hawke’s performance is simply terrific. His mannerisms and his high intensity eccentricity gives him a palpable on-screen presence in the early scenes of the film. As “Boyhood” evolves, so do the parents. All parents seem to slow down with age, as do Arquette and Hawke.

Stability vs. instability, imposed structure and order vs. Mason’s free spirit and his constant struggle to fight the machine he calls society – these are the themes that run throughout “Boyhood”.

The constant question of what direction Mason will take with his life is one that lingers throughout the film. Mason, on the other hand, is never really worried. His character is able to establish perspective.

In life, perspective is key. It is especially key in college. Indeed, Mason is a person that does not have all of the answers.

But he also does not need to have all the answers. He is constantly questioning his surroundings. Why is having an alcoholic for a stepfather important just because he can manage both his drinking and a full size family? Why does having a screen in front of you every waking hour of the day make you more in touch with your surroundings?

It seems as if these are the questions Linklater wants us to be asking. More importantly, “Boyhood” ends where we are all beginning this fall. When exiting the theatre my immediate takeaway was that college can be the best four years of a person’s life. Moreover, the bullying and teasing Mason was subjected to all seems worth it because there is a place for everyone at college.

So as we move forward and look ahead to this upcoming semester that we have in front of us, let’s remember to put things in perspective and to soak in the experience, because at the end of the day, “you will never be young again.”

Isaac Simon can be reached at [email protected]