Movie review: Boyhood (2014)

Most adults are real jerks to kids. Stepfathers are real assholes. Fathers that are messed up for the first fifteen years or so of their kid’s lives finally get their shit together and have great relationships with their kids and wonderful second marriages. Mothers who scrimp and save to raise their kids end up with the short end of the stick, alone and in poverty. That was the takeaway for me from Boyhood.

Not necessarily the most uplifting of films, but I suppose that depends on which character you identify most with: the kids starting out with their lives, the father who has settled down with his new family, or the mother still struggling to make it in the world.

On the surface, Boyhood seems no different from any other film that focuses on a child growing into an adult. How the film was made is what makes it different: Linklater filmed for twelve years, showing the changes in Mason—the boy in the film—and his family. It is kind of amazing that Linklater could pull off a movie that took so long to film.

Boyhood is a long film, at times it seemed to drag, at others go quickly. It reflects the painful reality of childhood and portrays adulthood as anything but being a time when you know what you are doing. Mason’s biological parents split early, with his father taking off for Alaska. His mother goes through a string of abusive husbands and ends up alone. His father hooks up with another woman, grows up, and becomes the father and husband he should have been.

How different Mason’s life would have been if his father could have been the man he became when Mason was a child. How different Mason’s life would have been if his mother didn’t need the abusive marriages that she seemed to end up in.

In the end, Mason is off to college. His father is ensconced in early middle age, tamer and happier with a wife and young child. His mother is facing being alone and fighting poverty that never seems to end for her.

Linklater ends the movie on an upbeat, though bit odd, note—Mason’s arrival at college and quick bonding with his roommate, the roommate’s girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s roommate. However, my mind was still on an earlier scene—Mason’s mother despairing that she had worked through all the milestones in life. The only one left was her funeral. I just thought there would be more, she despairs.

What is a boy to do except finish packing for college and leave. Her life might be over, his father’s life stable and happy, but his is just beginning.

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