July 13, 2014

Film Review: Boyhood

I saw Boyhood last night. After quite a lull in going to the cinema (there was nothing that good on for ages following the massive streak of Oscar-worthy films at the beginning of the year) I was really excited about seeing this one. It already had some interesting quirks, after all it had taken 12 years to complete – and that was on purpose. The film’s director Richard Linklater started the cameras rolling in 2002, and it’s only just been released, this year in 2014. That’s mind-blowing commitment right there.

The film follows a heart-warming story of the boy’s life, from five years old to eighteen. Twelve years is a really long time when you think about all of that development, and I think the most dramatic changes of the boy take shape during his teenage years. (Especially the hair cuts.) You start to feel quite close to the main character Mason, as you are seeing him grow, as if through the eyes of a parent, through his most difficult years. Actually you feel like that with all the characters, they all age quite obviously right before your eyes. It’s interesting to watch the mum (played by Patricia Arquette) as it’s so apparent how young she was when the children were first born, and she sort of enters adulthood herself. It’s like with longstanding TV shows such as Friends, or SATC, you first meet them when they’re young and fresh-faced and say goodbye to them when they’re a bit older and greyer. It’s sort of hard then, when they go off screen because you feel like you know them, in a weird way.

I wondered if I enjoyed the concept more than the film. For example, would I have enjoyed the film if it wasn’t for the fact that it was filmed over twelve years? Is it just a really kooky unique talking point? But actually no I loved the storyline too – it wasn’t generic, it felt natural, and they were highlighting important parts of Mason’s life but not the cliché ones. It wasn’t “losing virginity, or “losing milk teeth”, it was the rawer moments that just come with real life. Those smaller moments that make us who we are, but without really realising at the time.

Watching a life play out like that, showing a slightly older Mason each time, made me quite nostalgic. It lays out those awkward moments when growing up and figuring stuff out. The bits that you sort of push to the back of your mind and try to forget. Plus the film cleverly used cultural signposts along the way, in the first scene they are around six years old singing along to Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. Then they grow slightly older and visit a bookshop dressed as Harry Potter for their copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s those little pop culture references that we all remember from your childhoods that played along in the background and brings back the individual memories associated with them. Everyone remembers reading Harry Potter for the first time, or going to your first sleepover, or your first run in with peer pressure or fights with your parents. 

The film was also really sad in parts. Some of the characters who come in and out of the kids’ lives are horrible and really rather evil. These characters seemed to represent the classic villains kids come across growing up, whether it’s the teacher you hate, or the bully at school. The ones at the beginning who you think will be shit, end up being the most likeable characters and vice versa. It portrays the hardship of life, the fact that things change so often and around every corner and pretty much everything is out of your control. Nothing is consistent with the story which actually reflects real life quite well. 

The only gripe I had with the whole film was the fact that the male characters were quite dominant, I wanted to know more about Sam, the sister, and more about the mum (without just labelling her as “the mum” and “the wife”), it got quite interesting once she began to talk about what she wanted from her life when Mason’s about to leave for college, but then it cut to another scene quite quickly. I was interested to hear more about what she thought, not just a vacant character who always wants a boyfriend. I know the main protagonist was a boy and the film was called “Boyhood” but I would love one day see a film with female protagonist which doesn’t revolve around “finding a man” and shows how obscenely awkward it is going through teenage years as a girl, to a woman. Now that would also be a brilliant film. 

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