Friday, August 1, 2014

Boyhood; A Coming of Age for Everyone

 Boyhood film.jpg

Every so often a film comes along that is unique in a way that sets it apart from movies before it; Boyhood is that movie. Directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood is the coming-of-age story of a young boy from ages six til eighteen and is off to college. What makes this film different than other movies of the same genre is that the main character, Mason, is played by the same actor, Ellar Coltrane, spanning a period of twelve total years of filming, as well as the supporting actors that play his father, mother, and sister.

When filming a movie there are certain risks that the cast and crew take, especially if the movie is part of a series, or, in this case, spanning a long period of time. The Picture House pamphlet that I picked up in the theater discusses some of these challenges and risks that came with filming such a movie; financing needed to be secured for more than a decade with no return on investment. In that amount of time, a vast amount of things could have happened that would have put the movie production to a halt. There is the risk that one of the main actors falls ill or dies, the risk that Ellar Coltrane was the wrong choice to play the main role, something that might not be evident until he grows older, or that he loses interest in the project all together. There is also the risky possibility that everyone might not be able to schedule at the same time each consecutive year. Now, someone might think that sticking to a movie for this amount of time is nothing new, or not as risky as it seems, since the majority of actors sign contracts, as this is especially common for movies in a series that will span several years, such as the Harry Potter series. However, I was surprised when, after reading a Q and A article with Richard Linklater, he said " There weren't any contracts. You can't contract anyone for 12 years, thankfully....It was a leap of faith we all made with each other." So, not only is this movie exceptional for using the same cast for twelves years, it is even more significant when you factor in the leap-of-faith and factor out any sort of contract. These actors were not taking part of this film as an obligation, but because they made a commitment to each other, something more sacred than a piece of paper.

Anyone who enjoys watching movies could probably tell you that the most exciting part is called the climax, and it typically happens about halfway through the movie, give or take. Having watched a fair amount of movies in my time, I found myself waiting for a climax to happen. It did not. There was no rising or falling, no intense discovery or dramatic revelation. The most intense scene in the entire movie was, arguably, when Mason's alcoholic stepfather lashes out at the dinner table, and then in a later scene is shown standing above Mason's mother after physically attacking her, claiming that she "had an accident". This ended abruptly when Mason's mother left her husband and took her children with her, thus ending the most dramatic part of the movie. It's possible that modern cinema has manipulated our brains into knowing the basic pattern of any movie; we know that there will be a plot line, a climax, and an ending. When presented with Boyhood, all plot and an ending, it seems odd at first, but again this is not a typical movie, and so a typical pattern would not suffice. I think that it was the most accurate way to film the movie, because life in general is mostly just plot, with some big or small climaxes thrown in there.

After seeing the movie I came across an article that poses this question: what if the movie were girlhood? Would it still be as successful a film? Would it have won more or less awards, or none at all? It was compelling to think about. The article goes on to explain how, in movies, men's experiences, typically, can be universal experiences for both men and women, yet women's experiences are just women's alone, almost how a square can be a rectangle, yet a rectangle cannot be a square. This is in no way meant to criticize the film, but rather explore the idea or possibility of a movie exactly like Boyhood, just with a female protagonist. The article mentioned can be read more here:

Overall, I do think that this film is a coming-of-age for those of us who grew up during Mason's childhood as well; it was like seeing a parallel to my own childhood, with some differences (no drunken stepfather's is one). What is remarkable about this film is what it gives to the viewer; a glimpse of their childhood, of growing up, and perhaps a bit (or a lot) of nostalgia. It may be centered around a boy, but it is indeed a coming of age for everyone who chooses to see it that way. 

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