Boyhood, by Cameron J. Czaja

One major city that I like to visit whenever I get the chance is New York City. Whenever I visit that particular city, I like to make the most of my time. One activity that I try to do when I’m there is go see a movie. You’re probably asking yourself, “why do that when there’s so much to do in New York City?” Well, here’s the thing: I always try to look for independent theaters and movies that I haven’t heard of until I get to the city. This type of experience is something I love doing because it’s always a surprise and allows me to discover something new, which I enjoy when traveling. The first movie that I can recall doing this was the 2014 critically acclaimed film Boyhood though that flick especially is one I have heard about prior to seeing it, but wasn’t available where I was living at the time.

For those who aren’t aware, Boyhood is a simple slice of a movie with an interesting gimmick, which is that it took twelve years to complete. The reason for the extended schedule is that it chronicles a young kid going through life from the age of six to eighteen, and director Richard Linklater used the same actors during that time period, meaning we see the main character of the film played by the same actor. When I heard about this premise, I was intrigued and wanted it to see how they pulled it off. Did it live up to the hype, or was it too much of a gimmick? As usual, let’s find out. 

Because Boyhood is a slice of life film with no focused narrative, it’s hard to describe the plot in detail without giving everything away. Instead, here’s the basic premise of the movie that was twelve years in the making.

First set in 2002, Boyhood follows Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), a six-year-old boy with an older sister named Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter), and two parents Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Evans Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who have been divorced before the events of the film. Throughout, Mason goes through the trials of childhood and adolescence, which includes moving between different homes, facing abusive and/or indifferent stepparents, experiments with drugs and alcohol when he gets into high school, developing an interest in photography, etc.

For the average movie goer, Boyhood may not seem like an exciting film. Given that there’s no singular plot to follow and with a running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, it’s not something that made the mainstream movie-goers rush to see. As for me, however, it was something that I was eager to see. Not only did it live up to the expectations, but it was one of the best I saw that year, though mostly from a cinephile’s perspective. 

I’ve stated in previous reviews that I love creative filmmaking and films that go above and beyond in this department. Boyhood is yet another example that does just that, but not through fancy camera work or arthouse type cinematography, but through patient filmmaking. Earlier in my review, I mentioned that the director filmed different scenes throughout the course of twelve years and made a film with the same actors in those twelve years. Just knowing the risk the director faced when making it, such as actors not being able to come back to the project or not having the funding to finished it, was something I kept thinking about after I finished watching it. Fortunately, Linklater successfully completed it with no flaws in the editing, at least to my knowledge. 

Another aspect I that made me fall in love with Boyhood was how much I reflected on it after leaving the theater. While walking from the cineplex to the place I was staying during my time in New York, I thought about Mason’s life and how much it contrasted with mine. I grew up in a Catholic household and while I moved around a lot due to my dad being in the military, my parents were together and Catholicism was a major component of my life, and still is to this day. Mason, on the other hand, didn’t have a particular faith growing up, and the little exposure he did have was through the family his dad married into during his teenage years, though he didn’t seem interested at all. The reason I’m bringing this up is because as someone who had a particular faith growing up, it gave me a window of someone who didn’t have this aspect. While I did have friends who weren’t Christian let alone Catholic, I never saw what their spiritual life was like from a young child to adulthood due to moving around a lot. Boyhood gave me a different perspective on what it was like without Catholicism, and like most people who are also cradle Catholic, I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like in a non-Catholic household.

Full disclosure: the last time I watched Boyhood was in theaters back in the Summer of 2014. While I have two copies of the film on Blu-Ray, I have still yet to revisit it. The reason I’m doing this review, however, is for two reasons: one, because it was a front runner for Best Picture at the 2015 Oscars and figured a good one to review; and two, it’s a film that came out and I still remember very well despite it coming out eight years ago. I’ve seen films from two years and barely remember what they are about. This is noot because they’re bad, but they are just forgettable. Boyhood, on the other hand, is not. This is mainly because of Linklater took his time and crafted a story worth following with the same actors, and turned it into a film that you can’t help but appreciate due to the commitment it took to make it. One day I will sit down and rewatch it, but with others who haven’t seen it before. Hopefully they’ll have the same reaction like I did when I first saw it eight years ago. 

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