Boyhood is a true blue American film about 21st-century pop-culture. I ran into an article on Entertainment Weekly that said the film Boyhood, which spans over a twelve year period, was actually shot in thirty days. It is incredible to watch how much all of the film’s cast grew up on camera. The film has been received with glowing reviews, but I was initially skeptical about it. I thought that it was a self-indulgent film with a white, male protagonist that was to serve as a self-insert for its target audience. Little did I know I was going to see myself, childhood, and my transition from child to a young adult going off to college all on screen.
Boyhood scared me. It made me cry. It made me upset. I felt so embarrassed. I hated this movie. I hated how much I loved this movie. All the little subtle details of the film felt so authentic because they were authentic. Was I watching a movie or a documentary unfold before my eyes? The music at the beginning of certain scenes served as a marker for the passage of time and my memories flooded of backseat sing alongs as I heard Coldplay’s “Yellow” and laughter took me by surprise when I heard Soulja Boy’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” as I recalled the craze from middle school.
The acting was so brilliant. I was familiar with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, yet, I found myself lost in the story, and I forgot this was not a real family. I saw myself in the children. There was this pure authenticity of these kids just being kids, being lost and growing up and being caught in the middle of the adult world around them. I felt like I was watching a home movie at times, especially in the scene where the elder sister, Sam, pesters her brother with an off-key rendition of the pop anthem “Oops, I Did It Again.” The truth in the acting was the essence of the film. There was no need for gimmicks. Boyhood is people acting as people.
Boyhood is like a visual time capsule in a way. It is amazing to see early 21st-century culture through a child’s journey into adulthood. It became frightening at times as the film throws you into into the characters’ identifiable and paralyzing insecurities of “Who am I?” and trying to fit in as well as those moments of “Who cares what anybody else thinks?”
Patricia Arquette as the mother, Oliva, strikes a sensitive nerve when she is seeing her last child leaving the nest and heartbreakingly laments that she thought there would be more to her life. Everyone grows up in this movie. Bittersweet emotions run rampant because the transition from child to adult is not unscathing experience. There are first loves and heartbreaks and there are first, second, and third marriages until you realize that you do not need anyone else to love yourself. There are goodbyes to treasured cars for a minivan for your new family.
It is more than just a film about childhood and growing up and the passage of time through all of the good and the rough patches. It is a cathartic experience about how much we change over time. The fine lines and wrinkles settle around our eyes and hair gets cut, buzzed or dyed bright red. We pursue our passions like photography or let them go like dreams of being in a rock band.
It was exhilarating in a way to know that the film only really had a beginning and end. The middle came as it was, as the actors were. The film was about showing how we are all just trying our best and it’s the little details, the little moments with the ones you love that stay with you. I lost myself in this movie. I got caught up in my own internal dialogue and I’m not sure how much of this movie I ended up spending in my own head. There is not a show of grandeur and Hollywood fabrications or a singular moment where suddenly everything made sense. The movie just seems to be and allows us to participate in it. As one of the characters at the film end expresses, maybe it is not us who seize the moment, but the other way around: the moment seizes us.