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Boyhood

Posted by martinteller on May 2, 2015

I’ve said before that the more widely-discussed a movie is, the less I want to write about it, and this is perhaps the most widely-discussed movie of the past decade.  One of the most, anyway.  Part of the reason I’m reluctant to talk about these heavily talked-about films is that I want to be original, I don’t want to seen as parroting what others have already said.  And another part of it is fear.  Everyone has an opinion on Boyhood now, and the opinions are all over the map.  No matter what stance I take, someone is going to disagree with me, and that means they might challenge me, and maybe I won’t be clever enough to defend my position well.  I find that most of the time when I’m “late to the party” like this, my opinion tends to be lukewarm.  It’s not a calculated, conscious decision to play it safe, but I think subconsciously that may be a factor.  I don’t want my dumb hangups and anxieties to impede my enjoyment… or to mitigate my displeasure, either.

It’s a feeling I need to explore more (or just, you know, start being more current with movies so I don’t have this problem).  At any rate, my reaction to Boyhood was favorable, but not enthusiastic.  Obviously I knew going in what the idea was, but I didn’t anticipate how engaging it is to actually watch a child grow up onscreen (in a more compressed fashion than Apted’s “Up” series).  It really is something.  I can’t call Linklater’s efforts a “gimmick”.  I’d say “proof of concept”.  He’s shown that this is a legitimate way to make a film, one that can have fruitful applications.  Whether others will follow suit remains to be seen… it’s a major commitment, and would require a fresh use of the technique to be seen as something other than a copy (though I wouldn’t mind seeing a Girlhood).  But there are flaws.  The alcoholic stepfather thing feels very stale, Ellar Coltrane’s performance is not great (the riskiest gamble of this project), and the pop culture reference points came off just a little contrived to me.  Not that they were unnatural — kids at these times certainly would be talking about Harry Potter and Twilight — but I could sense the effort being made to establish the current time period.  Just a niggling thing.  More importantly, although I enjoyed the film and seeing Mason’s development, none of it was especially impressive or enlightening or anything special to me.  It’s a fine slice of life story with some truth to it, and as I said, it’s an effective proof of concept.  Now someone needs to do something truly great with it.  Rating: Good (79)

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2 Responses to “Boyhood”

  1. “Proof of concept” is an excellent way of looking at Boyhood. The opening years were the weakest and the most overtly dramatic in a conventional cinema sense. The abusive alcoholic stepfather, dramatic escape, boy poking at dead animal before looking pensively into the sky – all that was a bit much.

    I would have been similarly muted if the whole film were like that, but somewhere in his adolescence it clicked better as Linklater focused on the effect of entropy of relationships over time. I loved the slow visual motif of the father and son walks along a disappearing river ending with the son taking a girl to a canyon. The single best time transition which emphasized this was when we cut from the happy boy and his girlfriend to him staring almost with resentment at a bright picture of his now-ex. It communicated the wear of a relationship over time so much better than the early dramatic bursts.

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