[2014] Boyhood

Hey loyal reader(s)! Back after a long hiatus – school beckons. I’ve got some free time now and I’ll try to post 2-3 a week. Let’s start with 2014’s Boyhood, a movie some consider “runner-up” to 2014’s eventual winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I’ve had a fair few conversations where the main point of contention was anything less than a win for Boyhood would be (before the Awards)  or was (after) a direct insult to the novelty of longitudinal film making. That said, it is a good exercise to begin to understand the cagey genius of Boyhood. Although an entertaining film to say the least, levels of inauthenticity continue to plague how I remember the film.

The gist of the film is that the events play out in a splice version of real-time. Director Richard Linklater managed to keep a cast and production team together over the course of over a decade to semi-script evolving relationships as the characters and the world grows up and shifts semi-expectedly. Young Ellan Coltrane plays a boy on-screen, but he’s also just a boy off-screen. His acting is himself playing a version of himself. There’s something exploitative but heartwarming about a boy transitioning to manhood on-screen. The fact that the character develops self-awareness as fast as the actor does cures what could be thought of as a diorama rather than drama. The young boy is as authentic as he is allowed to be, two steps from real life, and three from the generation about whom he is supposedly documenting. But it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of the world plays house while the director tinkers over missed connections and predictable abusiveness.

The story, while heartwarming on the surface, feels like an amalgam of expected human vices sewn together for clarity’s sake – in realty, no life is a neat set of explanatory variables converging along a path. There is no line of best fit and statistics be damned at the expense of waking up on every other morning and breathing in the fresh air for just five minutes. Where are these moments in Boyhood? Are we just expected to believe that the only important or life-changing parts of the boy’s life are those of drama or coincidence? The dilemma of documenting life in so many layers is the nuance takes a backseat for storytelling clarity. For a movie that pitter-patters discussing a life “worth living” from “moment to moment” feels much like the embodiment of a home-schooled child tattooing “Carpe Diem” on the inside of her arm as she watches Boyhood from the couch in her basement. Boyhood, for what it’s worth, lets this girl know that it’s okay to just be. But Boyhood also attempts to capitalize on the serial failure of the human spirit. It’s all a little too real –  and that’s what makes Boyhood triumph beyond the long shadow of exploitation and questionable humanistic storytelling. Continue reading