Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time, The Revelator

Boyhood (2014) - Linklater
 photo 2f58ce67-7e82-43a3-a830-0d74ecbc5784_zps8df81857.jpg
Before Sunrise, that perennial hit, the milestone of a generation, didn't hit me even though I was still in college when it came out. I thought it was too precious of a subject to be portrayed right and that there was no way to show young adult's romance without being pretentious. I thought the movie brought out/added to the worst traits in precautious, sensitive young men: a false sense of self confidence and self-righteousness. Linklater was the proto-hipster. I shunned him and his movies forever (ok, I watched Before Sunset, Waking Life and some others over the years).

I don't know why, but I gave Boyhood a go. Maybe because I wanted to prove me right the point I have been espousing for years that there is absolutely no salvageable profundity in movies about suburban white boy's life. Maybe I just got up too early after having all that thanksgiving food and booze and wanted to watch something. Maybe I thought I could place a safe distance to be objective because the subject is about childhood not adulthood. But Boyhood touched me to no end. There is nothing much going on in the film. It charts a Texan boy Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his nuclear family for about ten years until he goes off to college. Linklater plays with time- the great revelator and equalizer, more expressively here than his 'Before' series. At first it plays out like a stripped down, down to earth version of the childhood segment of Tree of Life (which was by far the best part of that film). There are a lot of moments that are just as magical as Jessica Chastain spinning off the ground: a little talk in the car where dead beat dad, Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) tells Mason about the blue whale as a proof that magic exists, or forever frazzled mom (Patricia Arquette)'s existential musing when Mason leaves for college, or the Mason talking with the girl he just met about the moments seizing you instead of the other way around.

Linklater chugged along consistently sticking to his gentle street philosophizing without a care in the world: no one really knows the big answers in life. I finally see his guilelessness in his films. Whether he observes life with the help of his famous actor friends, he is honestly portraying characters with what life throws at them. Seeing a boy growing up and forming his opinions and minds while acknowledging the time zipping him by is really something. Boyhood is a culmination of everything he's done before and it's marvelous. Still, Linklater's optimism is still very much American and it annoys me sometimes for a fact that we never see Mason cry or having a real tragedy in life. But I also understand it's called Boyhood, not Boyz 'n' da Hood. It is about celebration of growing up and unseen possibilities. Tragedies come later. They can wait.


  1. Loved this movie. Americans need to watch this movie and learn from it. This is not an optimistic, light-hearted look at growing up. Not at all! It's about trying to grow up in a world that is constantly telling you how to live your life, and what is acceptable and unacceptable, when you have no idea who you are and what to value in life because you're young and just trying to take it all in. For Mason Jr., the lack of a stable family and a string of abusive, boorish men, is bad enough. But then it's...Are you a fag? Can you play sports? Can you shoot a gun? Can you make a living? Will you work hard enough? Do you put women in their place by disrespecting them? Are you a good person because you believe in God? It's oppressive and unhealthy and leads many young people to commit suicide, or spend their lives trying to undo the damage, let alone figure out how to live life in a meaningful way. What's upbeat about the film is that there are people in these children's lives who offer them support along the way. Linklater wants you to notice those moments, because they offer hope. like the hispanic man who was inspired by Mason's mom to attend college, or like Mason's dad trying to be present for his kids, or Mason's art teacher. The moments do seize us, but we need to pay attention to them.

  2. I agree with you One hundred percent!