Monday, August 18, 2014

Boyhood Review

Boyhood Review

I remember when I was in 3rd grade, driving home from school in my Mom’s car, and I remember my Mom was on the verge of crying. She was reliving the day I was born and how I nearly died due to a bad case of Meningitis, and how there is a shunt in my head that saved my life. My Mom called me a miracle, and I realized how lucky of a person I am today. I remember my first friendship in Kindergarten and how it turned into something cold and cruel. I remember that I never stuck up for myself and it was life that split the friendship instead of me having any guts. I remember my teenage years and how bad my acne was. I remember the fights I used to have with my parents because they thought I didn’t talk enough and my poor grades. I remember I was so freaked out by a terrible report card that I hid it. When my parents found out, I was in worse trouble than I would have been if I would have just been honest. Most of all, I’ll never forget after the report card incident, when my father came home. He came into my room, looked me in the eye and said I had broken his heart that day. I had never felt pain like that before in my life, and all my hardships since had never added up to that relenting pain I felt from his words.

I remember I was a hopeless romantic and how I never had any confidence to get girls. Well, scratch that. I did have confidence; I was a 6th grader who got the four best-looking 8th grade girls to slow-dance with me at a dance. I had confidence; I just never knew how to channel it, to use it. I remember meeting a girl my sophomore year of high school and learning that she was all I ever wanted in a relationship and more, but she was in a long-term relationship, something that seemed permanent. I remember she was the first girl that I felt I could have killed for; she was the girl that caused true heartache. I also think that over-saturation of emotion also tore us apart by the time she graduated. I eventually had a serious relationship in high school that ended badly by my mid-freshman year of college. After that, I declared that I would not chase girls, and for the rest of my college career, that all my decisions would come naturally. As I got into an elevator during the last big party of my freshman year, standing to my left was a girl. A girl I oddly spent a lot of time with that weekend. A girl I spent time with on move-out day. Little did I know that this girl in the elevator would be the girl I would date the rest of my college career. And we would get an apartment and a dog together. And after five years together, we still have something so strong, so genuine, something filled with love, affection and fascination.

My memory is a very powerful thing. As I sat in the theater and watched “Boyhood,” tonight, my memory came back, like a tidal wave of images. I find it hard to watch “Boyhood” and not be presented with your life decisions, your success and your failures. All of the moments of your life shaped you to be the person you are today, no matter how huge or small those moments maybe. I am not dead, as I am writing you this review right now, but watching “Boyhood” literally felt like dying, my life flashed, over and over again. The imagery of “Boyhood” is so authentic to the point that it is emotionally demanding. Even though the film is called “Boyhood,” this is a movie that is going to evoke emotion from everybody. It won’t matter if you are a boy or a girl. It won’t matter if you have had an easy life or a life filled with sorrow. It won’t matter what walk of life you come from. The film is told through the eyes of a boy, but as he grows up, so do the people around him.

“Boyhood” is the most ambitious movie I have ever seen. Forget any superhero blockbuster. Forget any big move in the future. Forget any edgy story arc from any movie you have ever seen. “Boyhood” was a movie that was shot over twelve years, using the same cast. How director Richard Linklater was even able to pull this off astounds me. This was the biggest risk I have ever seen, anywhere. Any one of a million things could have gone wrong during the making of this film, but Linklater shot it all like it was effortless. I have raved about Linklater’s films before; I loved his “Before” trilogy and “Waking Life.” But he has never made anything like “Boyhood” before, nothing in his filmography can even compare. Nothing in any artist’s career can compare to this. I think I have thrown the word “art” around when describing someone’s movie, but for “Boyhood,” art sounds too weak a word.

If you could not tell from my rather long introduction, “Boyhood” is about life. It examines the great times, the harsh times, the slow times, the times filled with pride and the times filled with sadness. We watch Mason (given life by a shockingly riveting performance by Ellar Coltrane) as a six year old boy, and we watch his life play out until the day he moves into college. Like I said, Ellar plays Mason the whole movie. Every actor in the film plays the same character. Linklater has shot this film, little by little, for the last twelve years and the result is a genuine classic. I love that Linklater didn’t use some cheap way to note the passing of time. We see Mason’s life as a series of moments. It was amazing how this film felt like life. Linklater captures the way that days, weeks, months, years move at blistering speed. Yet, we wake up one day, look in the mirror and can’t seem to recognize the person starring back. It truly is masterful storytelling and the best part is the audience never once feels confused, everything comes so naturally.

I also fell in love with the way Linklater milks nostalgia out of every single frame. As we watch the characters in this film grow older and older, there are footnotes that mark the passing of time. Linklater uses popular music to signal the passing of years, or a political event or a piece of popular culture. As I saw a certain cartoon on the television of a scene or heard a particular song, I couldn't help but be transported to back to the first time I saw and heard those things. Linklater masterly uses these little memory pieces to evoke the maximum amount of nostalgia and emotion out of every scene and he does so with absolute craft.

We meet Mason’s parents; Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). We learn that Olivia has really taken the role of two parents, as we see that Mason Sr. is just a big, best friend more than anything else. We see Olivia throw herself into bad marriage after bad marriage, all affecting Mason as a result. We meet Mason’s sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter), and see her typical, older-sister antics. We meet the women in Mason’s life, like Sheena (Zoe Graham) and all the other people who touch Mason in some way, transforming him into the person we see walk into his college dorm at the end of the film. To say the cast is great is an understatement. I particularly can’t put the work done by Ellar Coltrane into words, to pull off such vivid work at age 6, all the way to age 18. Good God, just give the guy the Oscar right now. Ellar Coltrane left me speechless, that is all I know how to say. I love the work by Arquette, defining her career in way I would have never expected. I’ll always love Hawke, and this is his best performance to date. I couldn’t help but be drawn into the scenes with Samantha, brought to great life by Lorelei Linklater, someone I hope I see in movies in the future.

As I walked up to the ticket booth to buy my ticket tonight, the cashier told me that this movie would change my life. I can honestly say that I have loved a great deal of movies in my lifetime, all of which have touched me or shaped me in some way. But I can also say that “Boyhood” is the first truly triumphant movie of the 21st Century. It is a movie that will be a considered a new age classic by the time I am an old man. I know for a fact that when I buy this movie and watch it more, I will find new things that I love about it. I think when I re-watch it when I am 30, I will have a radically different reaction to this moment. I also think that reaction will radically shift again when I see the movie again at age 40. I can’t remember the last time a movie spoke to me, I can’t remember the last time a movie hit me on such a personal level. “Boyhood” is more than just a movie; it is art at the highest of calibers.


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