Life doesn't give you bumpers

Life doesn’t give you bumpers

What is life? How can one ever understand a story that one finds oneself in the middle of, and can never be examined beyond its final chapter? Is life one golden goal waiting to finally be scored? Or is life instead a series of smaller achievements that shape and affect the next achievement. With so many interpretations on what exactly life is, how could we ever expect a life to be properly represented in a fictional film?

For the answer to that question, we turn to Richard Linklater and his remarkable new film BOYHOOD.

The movie is the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane). As the film begins, we find him daydreaming in the grass at age six. Mason’s father has been out of the picture for quite some time. he is being raised alongside his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) by single mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette).

Eventually, the children’s father Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) comes back into the picture and looks to be a part of their lives. While Olivia is happy to see him stepping up, there are obvious hesitations to him parenting from the cheap seats and undermining what she has achieved as a parent.

For Mason Jr though, the presence of his birth father becomes invaluable. Both he and Samantha are smart enough to see where their father needs to get his shit together, and neither of them are ready to treat him as father of the year. However, he becomes a key counterweight to the men Olivia will continue to bring into their lives – men who seem like good bets in the moment, but go on to show their true colours over time. All of these people will shape Mason’s life as he goes through his adolescent years; his sister, his parents, his step-parents, and several other mentors and friends.

This film was shot in clumps over the span of twelve years, so as the story unspools we watch Mason – and everyone around him – age naturally and grow through more than a decade.

boyhood

It’s a marvel that BOYHOOD even exists. In a time where so many in Hollywood are doing what they do for the payday and power, along comes Richard Linklater and an idea that took more than a decade to execute. So much could have gone wrong in that time, so much could have changed in the very medium they were working in. As the film plays out and details like technology, music, sports, and politics serve as chapter markers it occurs to us just how much has changed. This film being completed would have been cause to raise a glass: The film being as compelling as it is a landmark.

In watching Mason Jr. grow-up, we realize just how much we go through in the early part of our lives.

In our formative years we are surrounded by so many people. It’s not just the friends who we choose, and the family we’re born into. It’s shitty people we’d rather avoid, caring mentors who we my-or-may-not listen to, distant acquaintances who care about the very idea of us even if they don’t know us all that well, and perfect strangers whose lives we unwittingly alter. Every single one of them will leave impressions on us whether we want them to or not. Some we will try to emulate, some we will never want to be the slightest thing like. As life goes on, these same people will continue to drift in-and-out of our orbit, but when we’re young, these people will have the most amount of influence on us…and potentially do the most amount of damage.

At the same time, we cannot be afraid of the damage done. Whether it’s someone around us not being who we need them to be, or finding that we are not living up to the potential we have inside of us, we need to reach down and find the strength to keep pushing forward. Part of the reason is because any moment of weakness we find ourselves living through isn’t a moment someone else hasn’t already lived through. If they could survive the drunken step-father or failing grade, so can we. The other part of the reason is that our story is continually being written. Even well after the credits roll on the BOYHOOD film of our own lives, we remain in play, remain subject to change, and remain an influence on those around us. The pain has just as much to do with that as the pride. It’s irresponsible to fear it – it should, in fact, be embraced.

The thing about BOYHOOD is that its story isn’t truly all that compelling. It’s the story of children we’ve met – perhaps even children we were. It’s likewise the story of adults we know – and probably even adults we are. It’s about the usual ups and downs of life, the kind that are made of minor victories and foreseeable mistakes. It has more in common with its audience than nearly any other film you’re like to see, and all at once that makes it surprisingly common, and extraordinarily profound. It may mark the first time that the better part of a human’s life has been used to tell a story – and it’s our story. It’s the story of every son, daughter, father, and mother. It may not be compelling, but it’s deeply tangible.

It’s tangible in the way it makes us remember what our parents told us when we were small. It’s tangible in the way our children asked us harder questions when they got tall. It understands that while none of us will ever know what it feels like to flee a giant lizard or fly a mighty dragon, that we have all looked at a beautiful person of the opposite sex and wanted to kiss them. We’ve all wanted to be better than our parents, and ultimately end up turning into them. It took a real boy’s life and grafted it on to a fictional boy’s life, but made it so very hard to tell one from the other…the very way many of us want to be one thing when we’re young but turn into something else. That’s what few films before it have done, and that’s what few films after it may ever do again.

That’s life.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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