Last night I went to a late movie at Concord Mills, sat in a nearly empty theatre, and saw a movie that certainly has no equal in film.
Richard Linklater spent twelve years shooting “Boyhood.” Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, is seven years old in the first scene. He’s nineteen at the end. He also charts the childhood of his daughter, Lorelei Linklater, from a little girl to adulthood. The parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, also age — not quite as dramatically as their children, but wellâ€¦the way adults age.
This happens in movies — with make-up. “Boyhood” is a great story about how human beings interact with their experiences and put themselves together. But there’s something about people aging in front of your eyes this way for real that tugs at your heart, no matter the story.
What an amazing risk, commitment, and accomplishment.
I think of children I’ve known at age 7, 12, 15, and 19. What if the child actor decides he wants to play soccer, have a girlfriend, or any number of things rather than continue making the movie he’s already spend years working on?
There’s something about that risk, the fragility of life (its essence, really), that’s simply there, in the background, throughout the film. Even its most mundane moments seem to offer a kind of heartbreaking emotion that’s unique — very hard for me to describe.
That’s not to say this is just a video of people aging. The story is episodic, like “Forrest Gump” or “Fiddler on the Roof” — and it works. It’s almost as if it invents a new genre.
It’s a brilliant, poignant unfolding. Adults say things and do things, sometimes big and life changing, sometimes small and insignificant. While the adults are oblivious, almost callous, to the impact, self-absorbed with their need to survive something or react to something, the children take all this in, give it meaning, and build their personalities, dreams, and ways of being around random events in time and space.
Life events (moving, marriage, divorce, the first day at a new school, a game of bowling) can shake your emotions pretty hard when held up to and seen through the innocence of a child.
In a sequence towards the end of the film, Ethan Hawke’s character, the father, offers advice to his broken-hearted son. He’s not doing a very good job of understanding what his son is dealing and he finally admits, in passing, that he basically doesn’t know how to live life himself and has been winging it the whole time. This is obvious to us, the audience, but news to his son — and seems to bring everything full circle. My, how we judge our parents, forgetting that they are/were just like us — taking what they know to be right and good and winging it.
And that’s life. We wing it all the time, while the people around us think we’ve got it figured out and every action is intentional.
“Boyhood” is a remarkable film.