We’re all familiar with coming-of-age films: life lessons are learned and the tumultuous journey of adolescence is charmingly paraded before our eyes. Sentimentality and empathy make up the essential elements of any coming-of-age storyline. When an American 90s kid watches a John Hughes film, their nostalgia becomes overwhelming. Those in love with Stephen Chbosky’s more recently adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower are similarly touched by the difficult themes of alienation and loss – and it is often these more sensitive topics that manage to evoke intimacy between the characters and the viewers.
But in the case of Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s latest film, the coming-of-age has never been so truthfully recorded. The premise of the film alone is simple enough, yet it is the production process that has been garnering the most attention, since it would even be an understatement to call this film a passion project of Linklater’s (who also directed the incredible “Before” trilogy). Shot intermittently throughout a 12 year period – Boyhood literally captures the growth of its entire cast on film, and the result is beautiful and organic.
Emanuel Levy/ http://emanuellevy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/boyhood_3_arquette.jpg
We watch as six-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) experiences the earliest stages of pre-pubescent curiosity, his family moving between small towns in Texas, his mother Olivia’s (Patricia Arquette) admirable attempt to continue her education, and her less successful attempts at marriage. Divorce, abuse, alcoholism, and drugs are all common subjects with films about growing up, but one of Boyhood’s most impressive feats is its ability to deal with these themes without playing them up for sappy entertainment value. When we eventually see Mason leave for college, the scene is heartbreaking not only because we witness Olivia’s sadness in missing her son, but we realize that she is utterly disappointed with life now that her nest is empty. Whether this sentiment is true or just temporary is left unclear, something that I find is far more unsettling and profoundly real.
By the end of the film, Mason does undergo a transformation and whether it is a good or a bad one is up to the viewer – he’s learnt some life lessons, sure, but he’s also ignored a whole lot of others. The boy we were introduced to at age six hasn’t turned into a fully mature and well-adjusted adult, because he doesn’t have to.
Boyhood has received a full release in the US, UK and Canada.
Universal Pictures UK/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys-mbHXyWX4
Featured image: Anthony Okeeffe/ http://anthonyokeeffe.com/2014/07/linklaters-new-film-boyhood-a-real-grown-up-treat/