We saw Boyhood in the retro cinema with the big plushy red seats during the theatre festival. Parking was a bitch, and we hiked a significant distance, passing buskers and bars until we arrived at the theatre, breathless and wanting of popcorn.
The premise for the film from writer/director Richard Linklater is simple: shoot a movie over 12 years with the same actors. Watch a boy, his mom, his sister and his dad all grow up. The boy, actor Ellar Coltrane, was six when the movie began; 18 when the movie ended. Ellar’s character Mason is the same age as my second child, my daughter. It was fascinating to watch the world slide from 2002, with its clunky video games and Harry Potter books, into modern day’s sleek technology. Ellar grows taller and more handsome with time, just as my daughter Ella has grown more beautiful.
Twenty minutes into the movie, my husband started smacking his lips and shifting in his seat. “Settle in,” I whispered, “There are no car chases here.” He sat back in his chair and patiently waited for something to happen. But Boyhood is all about character, not plot. Cast aside all your Hollywood expectations for this quiet film.
Boyhood’s flower slowly blooms over 12 years and 165 minutes. Nothing happens, and yet everything happens. There are the rare big transitions – the mother gets remarried, the dad shows up, a half-sibling is born. But Boyhood is about the gaps buried in between the big dramas of life: the rock collections and the family meals and the jumping on the trampoline.
I loved the mom, played by Patricia Arquette. She ages unapologetically on screen – morphing from 34 to 46. (Funny, she’s the same age as me, too). She struggles as a single mom, gravitating to the wrong men, forever standing in the kitchen, grabbing onto her life as an academic as her children grow up. She is perfectly imperfect.
She rages at her youngest son as he leaves home, “I just thought there would be more.” Poof and her job as a mother is finished. This is a bitter pill. When they are young, life moves from diaper changing and breastfeeding, to making dinners and herding them out the door in the mornings. The drift away from you is gradual – first they can walk by themselves for a Slurpee, they can take the bus, and then they are out after dark. Then motherhood’s big fluffy cloud floats right over you, and it bam, it is over, without much fanfare, except in your semi-broken heart.
Boyhood reminds us to stop waiting for the big stuff to happen. Embrace the Lego creations cluttering your floor, the procrastination at bedtime, the slow walk home after school, the negotiations in the cereal aisle, the reluctant unloading of the dishwasher, the messy teenage bedroom, the eternal digging in the fridge, the pile of shoes at the back door, the sprawling on the couch watching TV. This is life.
Peggy Lee asks, “Is that all there is?” And Boyhood answers, “Yes. Yes. That’s all there is, my friends.”