Truly unique, Boyhood captures the magic and memory of growing up

BY NOW hopefully you will have heard about Boyhood, the film 12 years in the making and covering, as the title suggests, the childhood of a young boy named Mason Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane). It has been lauded, praised and placed on a pedestal as a truly unique and brilliant undertaking, as a magnificent accomplishment in cinema by director Richard Linklater. Yet despite all these praises, it is by no means perfect, yet still remains interesting and engaging.

Mason Jr. and Mason Sr bonding.

The plot follows Mason’s progression to becoming an adult, from age six to age eighteen. There are no subtitles or text indicating the year or Mason’s age, everything progresses naturally over the years and you can get a rough idea of the age without even trying or needing to keep track. The film follows Mason living with his mother and sister in Texas, his mother attempting to make ends meet by teaching and a string of successive failed marriages. Along the way Mason also keeps in touch with his father and various adolescent tales unfold in a genuine way, surprising considering it was filmed yearly.

Whilst the film is named Boyhood and mainly follows young Mason, his story arcs cover and touch upon the various close family members in his life, his father Mason Sr. (played by Ethan Hawke) and his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). The plot is told mainly from Mason’s eyes but also at times partially from his family. From this we can very much see not only boyhood but also sisterhood, with Samantha allowing Mason and his girlfriend to use her college roommate’s bed, and parenthood with Olivia struggling to maintain a stable environment for her children. Mason Sr. in particular, despite not living with Mason, ends up being a more consistent part of Mason’s life than the other paternal figures Olivia chooses.

What made this film really enjoyable for me was how resonant the events in the film were. I was once annoyed by girls singing Britney Spears, once had to move home, changing schools and lose friends. I also knew people with abusive parents, and I too have been camping with my dad. These are somewhat tame experiences shown which allowed me to brilliantly relate to almost every scene in some fashion. Even if I did not recognize them personally I have certainly at one point or another recognized events in someone I have known.

Popular culture remains prevalent throughout the film, from the Beatles to Lady Gaga; Star Wars to the Dark Knight; the Game-Boy to the Wii. These parts of the film have been criticised by many people as being too corny or being used too much as markers to indicate the exact year of a scene. However since these are part of my experiences growing up and touchstones to what I associate with it, the inclusion of them to me does not feel that blatant at all.

Mason all grown up.

However, despite the originality of this film in its approach, it is not entirely unique. Linklater’s own work in the ‘Before’ trilogy follows the same couple in each film, despite being filmed several years apart with the same actors in each time. There has also been much likening to the film The 400 Blows by French director Truffaut, which also follows a young boy growing up, though in a far shorter timescale than Boyhood covers.

The film ends in a scenic desert environment discussing the notion that you don’t have to seize the moment in life, the moment doesn’t seize you, but rather that “you are always in the moment”. That is without a doubt what this film shows, starting you in one place and get transported to an end point whilst remaining constantly invested all along the way. It touches on both personal and professional obstacles, as well as emotional highs, ultimately capturing what makes growing up memorable and great time of life.