How does one define value in cinema? Is it the entertainment value, the value of its production, or is it something more? To me, there is no higher accolade than the cultural significance of a film, and as I write this review at 1 in the morning following the Wednesday evening premiere, I can say with certainty that Boyhood is significant and deserves your attention.
The story follows a boy and his family over the course of 13 years, delving into his tumultuous life of constant relocation and gradually sees the evolution of his character from a troubled young child to an idealistic young adult.
Boyhood isn’t quite as accessible to the widest audience. The film is primarily targeted at the Art House crowd, but nevertheless it is a film that should be watched by everyone, or at least given a chance. And if you’re a fan of Richard Linklater’s work, this ranks among the best.
The Bottom Line
It’s rare to experience a film with as great a scope as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – the cinematic undertaking of following a boy from age 5 to age 18 and applying a story to his development is without a doubt a production of unparalleled reach and dedication to the art form. The concept is so absolutely overwhelming that you truly get lost in the monolithic production.
To the casual viewer, Boyhood appears as a neatly edited collection of home videos, but they aren’t the senseless vacation videos that you’re likely familiar with. There is meat to this story, a tale of life that even without the high concept delivers several important messages to the audience: one of fragility, transformation, confusion, and a sort of carpe diem mentality of making every moment count (or as the film suggests, the moment seizing us). This isn’t just the tale of Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane throughout is 13 years), it’s about the personal journeys of his closest family members and each of them – his mother, sister, and biological father, (played by Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke respectively) each embarking on a unique journey of their own but always interlinked between one another and Mason.
I simply cannot tackle the entire story in the time I have, as there is such incredible depth to the plot with ever changing dynamics that it truly feels like watching a child grow and change over the course of a lifetime and I am confident in saying that this movie is truly one of a kind – it may be imitated in the future but nothing will come close to how this epic journey has transpired, and to be honest, I doubt there are many filmmakers that would dare to attempt something like this for a good long time.
At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Boyhood was a culturally significant film, and if anything, 2014 will be recognised for its contribution to that sector of filmmaking; we had the oddly intelligent Lego Movie, that daring Under the Skin, and now the epic Boyhood. I don’t like using the word “epic” without due cause, and Boyhood may be the most epic movie I have ever seen that didn’t have a single special effects shot. Epic is scope, the singular moment where reach and grasp meet and something truly miraculous comes into existence.
The characters are beautifully realised, the writing beyond comparison, and just a technically fulfilled production. But more than that, it leaves us with the message that no matter how mundane we believe our individual lives to be, we are all writing our own story. Boyhood is the story of us, the story of life, a tale of growing up, a tale of loss, and the tale of misplaced love, inquiry into the beyond, and the journey of discover into what makes you, me, and us individuals.
Boyhood is a gift and a transcendental miracle of cinema.