Boyhood was released 6 months ago, and no film from the last year has stayed with me so vividly. Nightcrawler and Calvary both impacted me deeply and their themes have remained with me, but Boyhood lingers in hidden corners of my unconscious world, surprising me as its shadow comes into the light at sporadic times.
The film is a logistical achievement; shot a few days a year over 12 years which demonstrates incredible commitment and tenacity in an industry that churns out films in shorter and shorter periods. Based on this alone, Boyhood would be noted as remarkable, but the film transcends these achievements, telling a story which resonates with the human journey of becoming.
The film traces the life of Mason Junior (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18 as he travels through the treachery and joy of childhood and teenage life. Mason’s story begins amidst brokenness and disruption as his life is surrounded by a dysfunctional family. This theme continues throughout the film though it never overwhelms the viewer. Rather, as time passes we witness a genuinely funny and heart-warming journey that highlights life’s simple joys and beauty.
Although the film focuses on Mason’s story, his story is inevitably connected to his family’s narrative allowing us to enter into the life of a family – and one character in particular – with a depth that is participatory. The story moves and the years pass and we fall into the characters’ lives recognising our own youth, idiosyncrasies and family. That is the quiet genius of this film; it is as if are no longer looking at the film, but looking with it at our own lives and stories, as Mason’s story resonates our own.
Director Richard Linklater does not fall into the trap of creating meaning through a tremendous or unbelievable event, but instead he causes his characters to engage with life in the present, while fully aware of the mess of it all. The focus on normal life with all its challenges is where I believe life is to be lived: not reminiscing about past glory or future satisfaction, but present here and now, making hopeful life and meaning out of the dirt. This is no easy feat, and is at times overwhelming, but as Boyhood so elegantly shows, real life is out there to be discovered each day.
Boyhood, with its many layers, will leave each viewer with different conclusions, questions and lingering thoughts days and months after watching it. It never tries to be deliberately profound, but one cannot help but insist that it is.
I was left with a hopeful haunting that meaning is made with those that we love and cherish. It is not since watching The Intouchables that I have felt so moved yet warmed by a film that calls one to express the full range of emotions: a true Delight.