Boyhood is the newest film by Richard Linklater who is known for diverse films such as Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and the Before trilogy. This film follows the life of Mason, a young boy growing up in the new American family, a broken one. Seen through his eyes and spanning the 12 years from ages 5 to 18, Boyhood also has the distinction of being filmed over those same 12 years. One of the highlights is watching the natural progression of the characters as they truly age with time. The children go through every awkard stage of development as the parents descend into age’s inevitable trap. It is a unique and special film.
This film is aptly named Boyhood as everyone in the film male and female, young and old, is caught in a perpetual childhood with no guide to full adulthood. The grown-ups may be older, but they are just as lost as everyone else, absentmindedly bouncing from one thing to another while dragging their children along like emotional baggage they’ve inadvertently collected. There is a beautiful ruination in Boyhood as we witness the aimlessness of the characters. No one has any clear idea of the meaning of life or anything resembling a purpose. It’s a sad picture of the lives so many lead and haphazardly pass on to their children.
There is no one to help this boy become a man. All the men he has in his life, in this span of time are petty, immature, some drunk and dangerous or just absent. They are locked into an uninterrupted boyhood, lost as to the meaning of being a man. Without a foundation of faith or belief in God, these men are left to wander the wastelands of video games, ridiculous dreams and booze. They shirk responsibility, hoping to find something better just over that next horizon. It’s utter lostness. Manhood has to be passed from one man to another and there is not one true man in the film. (Except Mason’s dad’s, second wife’s father, who is shown to be an attentive father, husband and grandfather. He and his wife are down home, God-loving people, yet the main characters mock the notion of being a “God person.”)
The most ironic scene and yet the most moving comes near the end of the film. Earlier, Mason’s mom encourages a young hispanic teen who is working at a manual labor job outside their home to go to school. She tells him he is smart and could truly make something of himself if he gets an education. As Mason is heading off to college, his mother and sister accompany him to lunch at a restaurant where the manager comes over to introduce himself only to find that it’s that same teen, now grown up. Because of her words, he has studied English, gone to community college and is finishing his bachelor’s degree. He thanks her for her kindness and tells her children to listen to her because she’s a wise woman. What’s so ironic is that this is the most moving scene in the movie and it’s not between Mason and his mother, but between her and a stranger. She’s had more of a directing, helpful influence on this unknown boy than her own. Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yet in Boyhood, none of the adults know the way their children should go, since they themselves are essentially lost in limbo, having adult bodies with the minds of children.
Boyhood is an important film to see; it’s a masterful achievement in cinematic production. Each vignette in Mason’s life transfers seamlessly to create the illusion that 12 years passes in just under 3 hours. It also shines a light on the state of the American family. It’s broken and mangled on the rocks of selfishness and the endless adolescence a majority of people find themselves locked in. Children grow up directionless as they are not shepherded to adulthood, but left to muddle through with no purpose or true hope for something better. The movie will leave you with a melancholy unease as exemplified in the closing song that says,
Let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else
I don’t wanna be a part of your parade
Everyone deserves a chance to
Walk with everyone else
While holding down
A job to keep my girl around
And maybe buy me some new strings
And her and I out on the weekends
And we can whisper things
Secrets from our American dreams
Baby needs some protection
But I’m a kid like everyone else
There is hope, but it is up to parents to pass it on to their children as they raise them up in the way they should go and to do that, the parents need hope from above.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5 ESV)