Movie Review: Boyhood

Boyhood, the new movie out from Richard Linklater, is now on my all-time favorites list. It’s an extraordinary film for several reasons. First, as a practical matter, it was filmed over 12 years with the same actors, shooting a few days each year. To see a 6 year old boy grow up on camera to the point where he heads off to college — along with the maturation of his parents over those formative years — is something that’s never been done before. (7 Up is a documentary, which has a similar setup, but that’s a documentary.) I can only imagine how difficult it was to finance and orchestrate the logistics for such a production. The payoff was huge — the benefits of a long term vision and long term investment.

Second, it’s a story in which “nothing happens” — life just unfolds. No one gets killed, no one wins a prize, no one undergoes life-alterting highs or lows. Instead, the characters simply grow up, and confront the trials and tribulations that characterize normal middle class life. It’s not a blissful existence, to be sure. Adolescence is hard. Divorce is hard. Earning an income is hard. Empty nesting is hard. Linklater captures just the right moments to refresh our understanding of childhood and of growing up. The moments are subtle, but deeply moving.

Third, I had a great deal of cultural nostalgia watching the film. If you grew up in the 90’s, lots of little things resonate, from the songs that are played (Sheryl Crow, anyone?), to cultural events (like the release of the Harry Potter books), to the general post 9/11 pre-Great Recession milieu.

All in all, highly recommended.

***
Other good movies I’ve watched recently:

  • American Beauty. A classic for so many reasons. As relevant a take on the doldrums of middle aged suburban American life as ever.
  • Like Crazy. The most realistic portrayal of romance I’ve seen in a long time. Sad, tough, moving.
  • Side Effects. A gripping thriller on an important topic: physiatrists and Big Pharma.
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. Good documentary on eco-terrorists. I wasn’t familiar with the history of the ELF so I found it both informative and ethically provocative.
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Beautiful scenes of India and an affecting portrait of how one can spend one’s golden years.

3 Responses to Movie Review: Boyhood

  1. Andy McKenzie says:

    +1 to this review. Boyhood was so money. I gave it 10/10 on imdb. I’m going to tweet the general principle, but I was always extremely nervous while watching it that somebody was going to get hurt, eg either in a car crash or that crazy knife throwing scene. I think this is a good proxy for how engaged you are with the characters in a story.

    Also, dunno why, but the scenes that I would usually consider corny (hispanic waiter scene, last scene about “life is always happening”) really got me, either giving me tears or goosebumps. And it wasn’t even that cold in the theater I was watching it in.

    • Ben Casnocha says:

      Indeed – I saw it in a theater and everyone was nervous at those scenes about disaster striking. I assume that was intentional. Perhaps the point was to show that we have many close calls in life.

      • Dave Carlson says:

        Many close calls… it’s so true. The sheer luck that some of us encounter (and others don’t) in life is remarkable, and something I like to reflect on regularly. I haven’t seen Boyhood yet, but my friends have recommended it, and I’m a huge fan of Linklater. “Waking Life” was an eye-opener for me during my high school years, and his range of excellent films is remarkable.

        I haven’t seen Side Effects (which is particularly relevant to me because of my interest in neuropsychiatry) or If A Tree Falls, but that caveat aside, I don’t see a bad film on your list. I remember when we met in San Diego a few years back, you told me you weren’t a “cultural sophisticate,” but your movie list suggests otherwise.

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