Lowdown: The journey of a boy and his family from childhood to leaving home.
You are probably aware of the ace up Boyhood’s sleeve. Instead of portraying the passage of years the usual cinematic way (e.g., by applying makeup or replacing the actors with older ones), Boyhood was shot over the course of many years and thus covers its actors’ – and thus characters’ – natural aging. And it does it all in order to tell the story of a boy’s coming of age (literally!), from the time he could first muster a memory till him leaving home for college.
That journey would amount to nothing if the whole world surrounding our boy did not change with him. Thus our boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), is bundled with a family that is both special and, at the same time, quite typical. First and foremost, importance wise, is his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette), who – as we gather along the way – had two children through a very young love affair but got separated from the father, Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke). That separation happened so early in young Mason’s life that it is all he knows. Mason has an older sister, too, in the shape of Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), thus putting the finishing touch on the portrayal of your average modern family. I say average because, at least as per USA statistics – and this is a movie taking place in the USA – more than half of 18 year olds no longer hail from a household where both their parents live together. [I know it’s true, I’ve read it in Time Magazine.]
Given the idea of making a film over the course of 12 years, and shooting it so it is true to the times in which it takes place, one can sort of imagine the style Boyhood chose to adopt. References to iPhones, the NSA and Facebook point out that this movie’s script was not frozen over the course of those 12 years but was rather fluid. And so is the presentation: we get a collection of scenes representing a certain period of time in young Mason’s life, and then – without the least bit of fanfare – we cut to a scene depicting another time, potentially another place, and featuring slightly older looking versions of Mason and family members. The experience is unique; clearly, if Boyhood had a point to prove through its creative decision, it makes it.
As Mason grows up we witness his family mature around him. Mother Olivia carries most of the burden there: we witness her second marriage with a guy who brings his own children to the equation, and we also see other men fade in and out of the picture. At the same time, we witness her evolution from a single mother working very hard to make ends meet into a renowned professional as the fruits of her labour materialise. Mason Sr. goes through a similar process, although his hardships tend to be conveyed through hearsay. Still, we witness him regrouping, abandoning his merry ways, and maturing into a second family where he actually delivers. Even if that delivery process has him exchanging his muscle car for a minivan.
Funniest scene: One of the families our Mason gets to be a part of gifts him with a rifle and a bible for his birthday. Laughs aside, by doing this Boyhood ends up covering even more of America’s demographics in its scope.
Best scene: Two and three quarters hour later (Boyhood is a long movie), Olivia figures out what her next life milestone is. She is not happy about it, but the realisation does let the best Patricia Arquette the actress has to offer flow through.
Overall: Boyhood stands out as a unique effort that delivers more than anything else I can think of in the “what it really feels to live a life” department. 4 out of 5 crabs.