One of our favorite films of 2014 is Richard Linklater’s dazzling film, Boyhood. Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) worked with the same cast — including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Ellar Coltrane (seen here from age 6-18) — intermittently for twelve years to create a film about a boy’s journey through adolescence. Indelible and profound, this is a must-see for teens and adults.
I saw this film just as my son was graduating from high school, when I was caught up in the many complicated emotions of letting go as he came to the end of his “boyhood” and was looking forward to leaving home for college. Needless to say, it was a powerful film for me to watch during a transition period in my life. Was my positive experience colored by my own intense feelings about my son setting off into the world? Or was it really that incredible of a movie?
A little of both. I can promise it is worth watching this film to decide for yourself. It’s got a 99% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is starting to rack up points in the Best of 2014 movie sweepstakes.
I spoke with more than a few college age boys who confessed to me that the film made them weep, and had endless conversations with parents facing the empty nest who likewise felt very strong emotions watching this film. One moment remains indelible to anyone with a child heading to college: Patricia Arquette says of her children’s life at home — “Is that all there is? I thought there would be more.” It is said simply (she is magnificent in the film) and it was utterly jaw-dropping.
Of course, it is impossible to summarize the work of parenting but in one simple statement she kind of says it all. After all the struggle, the work, the anger and tears, the joy and pleasures – it’s just over. She feels that something vital has been whisked away. She feels bereft and empty and quietly alone. She knows she will be fine, and will go on with her life. But the emptiness, the swift finish… well, she captures it perfectly.
I always turn to Los Angeles Times and NPR critic Kenneth Turan after seeing a film, eager for his professional opinion. In the case of Boyhood, Turan differed from almost every film critic in the nation; he ultimately found the film to be lacking. Turan’s point was, in a nutshell, if you’re going to all the work of setting up cameras and making a little film every year to stitch together afterwards, shouldn’t the story be stronger? Here is his review, and a quote: “Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate “Boyhood,” and I’m not totally immune to its attributes. But for me it was, at best, OK, a film whose animating idea is more interesting than its actual satisfactions.”
Turan may have a point about Linklater’s story telling decisions, but the ultimate result — watching a boy grow up — provides such a miraculous emotional experience that we have to remember a truth about art: we love it for its imperfections and truths. Boyhood film finds a truth that will endure.
So – go see for yourself. If nothing else, watching Patricia Arquette and the young man, Ellar Coltrane, age over the course of 2 1/2 hours is a remarkable experience, for any parent and any child. Could you have known, gazing at your six year-old’s face, how he would look as he went out the door to high-school, or how that beloved face would morph as your young man headed off for college? Never in a million years, and yet – yes. For that little boy is still in there. Take a look at these beautiful photographs of Ellar, taken over the years during the film’s production.
Boyhood is at the top of my list for 2014!
Photos by Matt Lankes