I might be late to the wagon, but I want to talk about this film.
I might be biased since Richard Linklater is my favorite contemporary director, but the truth is that Boyhood gave me the best time I had in the theatres last year. The absolute culmination of his personal style and themes.
The idea is simple: To put on-screen the growth of a child through twelve years to his adulthood, using the same actors each year. The execution in direction and edition is so graceful that it tricks the audience into thinking that accomplishing such a task is easily replicable and lacks any sort of risk or artistic merit. However, the amount of difficulty, chance of failure and the amount of possible inconveniences is so high that the mere existence of this film is a miracle on itself. Each setpiece must be meticulously put together on a certain space or time to represent an event, a worldview or conflict of such era, and otherwise the intention of the author gets lost. It is intimidating how uncertain is the future of such a proyect from this standpoint, and the fact that everything manages to work without any issues makes the existence of the film by itself even more fascinating.
Leaving that aside, it is a very heartfelt story about growing up. It is not only the protagonist who has to grow up, but the parents as well, who are in a constant liminal state towards emotional maturity at the same time as their sons, and must find their adulthood. It works also as a period piece or generational manifestation of which were the beliefs on each era, how is that these beliefs influenced people. But most importantly, it is how it uses the notion of time itself as an integral part of the process of filmmaking, which is the true experiment behind the work. It is time the one that makes its actors learn about each stage of life and enforces on them method acting. It is the relationship of human lives with time which gives the work its thematic cohesiveness. How the flowing of time affects our goals, hopes, worldview, dreams, and perception of reality. How time is cruel and makes us realize the ephemeral nature of life. The film has been described as a family photo album among cinephile circles, but I prefer to see it as a time tunnel where we listen to the voices of the past in mutual dialogue, which is accomplished through the ingenious juxtaposition of numerous scenes to get varied emotional responses. These voices are separated in space, time and narrative context through the use of ellipsis, but are still connected to each other through themes and tone.
The surprising thing is that in spite of being a project of epic scope, the approximation to it feels calm and relaxed. It feels humble, honest and pure, which something that tends to be lost in most cinematic productions. At some points I felt that some scenes could have come from a film from japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, whose style consists in capturing scenes in the least artificial way possible. This makes sense, since Richard Linklater stated on an interview that Ozu is one of his main inspirations as a filmmaker. An inspiration that is noticeable in this film since it parallels Ozu’s obsession with time and generational ties.
Boyhood is a triumph in multiple levels without losing its own artistic integrity or authenticity, and the fact that it got such an incredible reception is no surprise. Just on a conceptual level is a daring work that operates on a higher level than most productions, and the fact that it has more substance than what its concept promises is just icing on the cake. Its appeal isn’t just nostalgic or self-identification as it is conventionally believed, since that is a superficial interpretation of its emotional resonance. It is rather a reflection of human experience on itself from different viewpoints, either as a life one has already lived, or a life one has watched before, or a life that one wished one had, or the life that one wished one could avoid. I am not sure how this film will be looked back in the future, but at the moment, it feels like a masterpiece that begs to be rewatched and appreciated multiple times. Even if one might not end up liking it that much due to its calm tone, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in what cinema is capable of as an art form.