Why Boyhood May Be the Most Important Movie of 2014
Over the course of twelve years, Richard Linklater filmed the movie Boyhood, which follows the life of a boy named Mason from age six through eighteen. Despite being such a large undertaking, the film is neither condescending nor grandiose. It is certainly a work of cinematic art -critics have nearly unanimously sung its praises- yet it is humble and accessible in its presentation.
The film’s most striking feature is certainly the expanse of time over which it was created. The twelve years which it took to shoot the movie create a level of realism which is astonishing in itself. From scene to scene, you can see Mason age, and it is completely natural.
However, it was not merely the cinematography that made this film feel so real. The writing, the character development, was superb. Perhaps because the characters weren’t anything too extraordinary, they felt like real people, people you might know. Consequently, watching this movie will make you feel like you are peering into someone’s life.
In addition to its realism, Boyhood also raises many questions. I can’t say that it offers many answers, but the questions will certainly make you think. Furthermore, the questions are all very current; they are the type of questions that our culture is beginning to have to ask itself.
Boyhood explores the human condition in a very straightforward, unpretentious manner. Although the film is heavy on dialog, it never explicitly explains its philosophy. Instead, it shows, as good cinema should.
In the film, Mason is raised by his mother, who is divorced and pursues a few different relationships as Mason grows up. His father is only somewhat present at first, but he becomes more of a voice in Mason’s life as time goes on. Throughout his boyhood, Mason also moves a lot and his family struggles with poverty off and on. Does this sound familiar at all? The millennial generation has been raised with very transitory, unstructured family systems. This movie typifies that reality through Mason’s childhood.
The film certainly stands as an indicator of where America’s culture is at today, but I don’t think that is its main goal. Rather the film is about a journey, not one through space, but through time. In the course of three hours, you can see a boy go from first grade to his first year of college. This journey shows how rapidly time passes and how much we change as we age. If you don’t believe that our time here on earth is but an insignificant speck, then you need to see this movie. It very well may change your mind.
Boyhood is one of the most unique movies of the decade, and possibly the century, thanks to Richard Linklater’s dedication and stamina. It shows the world as it is, and it challenges us by asking us questions about what it means to be alive, why we are here, and how we should live. Despite its seeming mundanity, it is certainly one of the most iconic films in recent history.