Movie Review: Boyhood

The movie Boyhood follows a fictional young boy named Mason through 12 years of his life beginning at age 5. Overall I liked the movie and it’s a very realistic and accurate portrayal of growing up in the US. I especially appreciated that he was growing up in Texas as opposed to New York or California. To clarify, that has nothing to do with my own Texas pride but rather a yearning to see a different perspective portrayed on film. I also particularly enjoyed the use of pop culture references, like Lady Gaga’s Telephone video, to mark the passage of time. In addition Ethan Hawk and Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of Mason’s divorced parents felt very honest and true to life. The movie was so honest and true to life that it became one of the things I almost didn’t like about it. Other than Boyhood’s meandering look at the life of a young boy, the movie doesn’t actually have a plot. The lack of any tangible story arc is what makes it both unique and frustrating. While I applaud the director’s decision to stray from the standard narrative I was also left wanting a little more action. For example, (spoiler alert) at one point Arquette’s character marries a man who becomes abusive. When the abuse is revealed I actually said out loud, “Here we go… Finally some action.” That would be a major storyline for other films but in this case it’s a one-time only situation and she leaves him almost immediately.  Again I’m torn.  On one hand it’s nice to see a woman who doesn’t become a victim and shows strength by getting out of an abusive situation early. On the other hand avoiding the abuse eliminates most of the interesting parts of the story. It’s kind of like if reality crews followed a nice down to earth stable family. While that’s nice to see stability on screen it doesn’t make for very exciting entertainment.
While Boyhood is a decently good movie most of the attention surrounding it is for how it was filmed. Mason is played by actor Ellar Coltrane throughout the entire film and to accomplish this the movie itself was shot over a 12 year period. No Hollywood makeup was needed to hide or increase the ages of any of the actors because they naturally aged during the filming process. I can’t imagine the amount patience it must’ve taken to pull this movie off. I applaud the use of unique film making but apart from that I’m not sure how much I liked the movie on its own. It reminds me of the movie The Artist which won an Oscar in 2012 for Best Picture as a silent movie. I often wondered how much of the film’s success was due to it’s true value as a film and how much of it was due to the gimmick of it being a silent movie. Boyhood is in the same situation. While I genuinely liked it, the 12 year film processes is what gives it 4 stars instead of 3.
P.S. It should also be noted that the movie is almost 3 hours long which felt very unnecessary.

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