I have been in a reading slump for quite a few days. So while the TBR is piling up, I am content in watching a few good movies as of now. I watched this one recently. Thought will share my thoughts.
~ Richard Linklater
There are movies which make you smile. There are movies which make you cry. There are movies which shock you. There are movies that change the course of your life. And then there comes a movie which puts you through dilemmas such as I’ve been put into now, one that requires me to take time and think if the movie made me feel better or worse or absolutely nothing.
I tried to find flaws. Did I think that the movie dragged a bit too much? Did I think that some scenes were tasteless? Did I find something brilliantly thought provoking or life changing? Did it make any difference to how I feel about anything? I finished watching it in the morning and I kept thinking about the flaws I found. And the more I thought about it, the more the irony of it hit me. I was looking for flaws in a movie about growing up. Oh! That was it. Isn’t growing up flawed in itself? Who grew up perfectly ever? No one. Not yet. A movie about growing up is supposed to be boring and that is the beauty of it, isn’t it? What is the fun if you add unnatural elements, characters that walk and talk like we’d never walk and talk ever? So I realized criticizing the film for being imperfect is ridiculous because growing up IS imperfect. Growing up sucks in so many ways. There are people constantly trying to tell us what they want us to do, trying to take away our individuality.
Richard Linklater’s Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) on whose growing up ‘Boyhood’ is based, can be seen pushing against the tides of time to remain exactly the way he is. Through what he talks we understand that he is a special child who is trying to retain his life in his own hands despite it being dictated by many other adults around him.
He talks less. Mostly mumbles. He smiles less. His gaze is generally neutral. One look at him and an average person might think he is absolutely complicated whereas all Mason Jr. wants to remain is simple. His words exhibit profundity almost always when he speaks clearly.
Boyhood is not like your normal films. You won’t find shock elements or tragic elements in it just to bring up the viewer-value of the film. You will find it bland. You will find it keeps moving at a steady space. Slight changes here and there keep happening, but nothing significant. And as you continue watching it, moving with Mason and other characters, you realize after a while that a lot actually changed without you realizing it. Just like it does in our lives. By the time you find out about it, life slips away.
What I loved the most about the film was the family that was kept real to the core. The drama was limited to the drama that actually happens. Nothing for the heck of it. The film might feel monotonous in some places, but if you really observe things, you know there are leaps happening within the same, old frames. Linklater doesn’t give us any time frames. He leaps and shuffles as per his own whims. All we see is Mason growing up. A taller Mason. A rougher Mason. A more confident Mason. That is how we know the year has changed.
Linklater provides philosophical commentary in many places, especially through his protagonist but sometimes even through the other characters. We get to see a rebel Olivia, Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette), falling time and again into a trap of the conditioned meaning of a ‘family’, therefore making bad decisions, but coping up by herself. Her character has been kept a normal motherly character throughout the movie, but by the end of it, one realizes what a special woman (other than being a mother) she was all her life. Ethan Hawke’s (Mason Sr.) evolution as a matured father is a tad bit late, but the arc does grow enormously once it does.
The background score is minimal. Maybe to not distract the viewers from the absolute nothingness unfolding in front of their eyes. Discussions about the worth and the pointlessness of everything keep happening, the frustration of having lived a whole life without actually doing much is displayed, the meaning of everything within the meaninglessness is reflected upon and in no time we see Mason all grown up and adult.
That is the beauty of it. Of being simple and yet spanning vast oceans by merely a stick.