Big Screen :: Boyhood

September 11th 2014


Great movies usually make you feel excited, or scared or happy or sad. They grip you with a riveting plot or amazing characters. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is undoubtedly a great movie, but it affected me in a completely different way. As a result this will be a bit of a different review.

Boyhood is the story of a whole childhood – not a particularly exceptional or eventful one, though by no means boring. Its characters are flawed, but generally good people. No real events of enormous consequence occur; but hundreds of events of small consequence do and we watch them inform a boy, as he becomes a man. The lead, Mason, emerges as a character that’s possibly as complete and fully realised as any ever put on film.


The making of this thing is obviously extraordinary. Linklater took a group of actors and filmed a few days with them every year for twelve years. Ellar Coltrane who ages from 6 to 18 over the course of the movie plays Mason. This, by the way, is stranger and more startling than any special effect in any blockbuster you care to name. Linklater largely and purposely avoids huge drama, as it’s often the smaller moments that we remember and hold on to. I identified with Mason not because his childhood mirrored mine exactly, but because Linklater captures so intensely the feelings of growing up that are universal – at least in the first world anyway. The effect on me was enormous.

As you watch this whole childhood race by you in three hours, you can’t help but reflect on the passing of time.

It was cold and late when the movie finished, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet. Instead I walked around the city for a couple of hours afterwards thinking about school, girls I liked and the intense friendships I had and lost or let die.

I thought about parties I attended, sleepovers in primary school, athletics carnivals and school camps. This guy who gruesomely broke his arm at footy practice. Shitty jobs that I quit or got fired from. Bad choices and good ones. Terrible songs that I loved, bands that I worshipped, and movies that I watched over and over again but haven’t seen for a decade – even though they are sitting on my shelf at home.

I thought about my son, who just turned one, and pictured him at 6 and 12 and 18. I was melancholy I guess, but not exactly sad. Mostly I was just drinking it all in.

I have a kid, a wife, a mortgage and a full time job, and I’m also the luckiest person at FBi Radio in my opinion (even though I just had to watch Expendables 3). I don’t have much time to reflect, and I’m guessing that’s the same for most people. I’ve seen the movie twice since because I loved it so much – but in those hours and even the days after I first saw the film, my whole past seemed so much more vivid to me. It was wonderful.

This is a powerful movie, sure it makes a couple of missteps, but it is so much more than the gimmick it could be mistaken for. Boyhood is one of the best films of the decade. It’s a masterpiece. Watch it.

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