The joys and pitfalls of growing up are seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke) and his sister (Lorelei Linklater). Vignettes, filmed with the same cast over the course of 12 years, capture family meals, road trips, birthday parties, graduations and other important milestones.
Boyhood is written and directed by Richard Linklater. Filmed on a very small budget over twelve years, the simple idea of this film sounds like a great experiment, but ultimately drags and suffers, taking the audience with it.
I went into Boyhood with relatively high expectations. I am a big fan of the “coming of age” genre and I adore stories about children, in addition to my own admiration of Linklater’s divine Before trilogy. I was disappointed, and most of all, very bored. I didn’t feel engaged by any of the characters, and even when I did begin to gain interest in them (namely the mother and the sister), the narrative cut off, transitioning onto another year. It was really jarring experience, as just as we are given new development for these characters, a nostalgic song starts and we move on.
That being said, Patricia Arquette is beautiful as “Mom”. Just the name of her character makes me cringe (Why not give her a name? Mary? Judith? Barbara? I could go on!). She is, from the beginning of the film, such a strong character. She carries everyone and everything, transitioning into a woman without power in an abusive relationship. Even at the end of the movie when Mason has his graduation party before he leaves, “Mom” is given absolutely no closure. She is left, alone and sad in a brand new predicament. The filmmakers show all of the trauma that she is made to suffer, only to withhold a resolution to her story. Really a terrible way to treat a character that left a bad taste in my mouth.
This also makes me think about the other characters. As it is from the perspective of Mason, that he neglects and forgets about his own mother due to this fading away of characters. I was so confused at the end of this film. He’s sitting in the middle of the desert, taking pictures and I’m going “Really? This is what this entire thing has led to? Sitting in the desert with stoners and a hottie?” I literally can’t.
Boyhood is a demonstration of lazy filmmaking. It feels as though Linklater had this idea however many years ago and was like “let’s do this motherfuckkeeerrr”. It also feels like every year was written completely separately, opening up Myspace to research: “Righto. What are the cool kids up to nowadays?”. The film was so disjointed that I really don’t know how they got anyone to put money into it.
I am particularly mad because I really should have enjoyed Boyhood. Mason was born around the same time as me belonging to the same generation. And there are some things about this movie that I connect to. Some of the music, for example, brings me back to the early to mid naughties which tickles the old heartstrings. But this is easy to do. Put a good song over images of a garbage can and audiences will bring their own emotions to the plate.
(I just need to take a moment to heave an angry sigh)