Boyhood should have won Best Picture this year. It was the irrefutable best film of 2014, and shattered the expected three part story arc expected in a narrative feature. Nothing like this film has ever been done, and it’s hard to believe anything like it will be done ever again.
Richard Linklater’s masterpiece spans a course of 12 years, showing us the adolescence of Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane). Son of single mother Olivia (the always under appreciated and recent Oscar winner Patricia Arquette) and younger brother to Samantha, Mason is first seen at age six and in first grade. His mother and father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) split up, and we hear Mason Sr. moved to Alaska. Desiring a better life for her family, Olivia moves herself and her children to Huston so she can pursue a degree in Psychology.
The movie, while covering 12 years of his life, spans a few stages. After Mason and his family move to Huston, his mother marries a professor with two children of his own, creating a blended but seemingly normal and happy family environment for everyone. When that relationship turns sour, the family relocates, where Mason then finishes middle school.
Before we know it, Mason is in high school, working as a dish washer and displaying a knack for photography. While capturing the big moments of childhood like divorce and high school relationships, Boyhood really succeeds in capturing the little moments of life, such as talking cool to appeal to older kids, bowling with Dad, and simple dinner table conversations. Mason experiences everything we did in our childhood, along with everything we wish we had paid more attention to.
The final conversation in the movie is between Mason and a new friend, which reinforces what the movie was trying to show. Sometimes, we don’t seize the moments, but the everyday situations of life seize us. When Mason realizes this, his boyhood is over, and so is the movie.
Even though the time jumps caused me to look at a somewhat new set of faces every 20 minutes or so, the pacing and flow of the film felt completely natural. It didn’t feel like I was watching a motion picture, but rather life itself. It didn’t quite strike me until the end neared just how much of a marvel Boyhood was. I wound up sitting there and asking myself, “What have I just watched?”
Some will say that Boyhood is a boring film. While at times the movie does come across this way, those who have this opinion aren’t fully grasping what the point of the movie is. Boyhood isn’t a traditional narrative film. Mason doesn’t get the girl, no one dies horribly, and there’s no grand conclusion to look forward to. Boyhood was made not to pretend, but to reflect. The story is fictional, but the messages and approach are among the most realistic in cinematic history. The film was made for people from all walks of life, and when you go into the film with that mindset, it’s hard to write it off as “boring.”
Impeccably directed, beautifully scripted, and marvelously constructed, Boyhood is unquestionably my favorite movie of 2014. Boyhood has the ability to change the face of film forever, reminding audiences and filmmakers alike that a lifelong dedication to a work can pay off astonishingly if you incorporate the patience, delicacy, and resilience that the story deserves. Can a movie like Boyhood be done better? Maybe. But right now we can’t say. We have nothing else to compare it to because it exists within a realm of its own. And right now, that realm is pretty mesmerizing.
This movie received 5 out of 5 bulldogs.