This is not my childhood by any means or my life or my family, but there are glimpses of it here. Quick flashbulbs or touchstones that for a brief instant take me back. Sometimes many years ago or just one or two. Nostalgia is the strangest type of memory for a young person, because we are transcending the space between the here and now, which we are so used to, and going to the “back then.”
12 years is a long time but even more so when you have fewer years under your belt. Thus, Boyhood in comparison to my own life is an epic film in every sense of the word. Whereas it might only be a wonderful coming-of-age tale for older generations, there is a feeling that this film in some small way represents where I’m coming from.
A film could never fully encapsulate or perfectly represent what it is to grow up in adolescence. It’s different for every child depending on where they live, what their family is like, and so on. But Boyhood is an unprecedented depiction of what that existence looks like to many young people. There is certainly something special and important in that.
There are so many different vignettes, almost like short films, characterizing each and every year in Mason Jr.’s life. We are given no blatant indication of time and place. It is all context clues, cultural references, and watching Mason and his family grow and evolve around him. Always innovative Richard Linklater does not hold out a giant megaphone saying this happened that year or this year. Instead, Mason’s story plays out like it would in the so-called “real world.” There are some major milestones or life-shaping moments that are shown, but most of this journey has to do with the little caches of time that make up life.
I feel drawn to do something that I don’t normally do, but Boyhood is such a unique film it deserves to be approached in a different light since to put it truthfully, it cannot be pigeonholed into any standard category.
Instead of trying to acknowledge the entire narrative of Mason’s life, which would be as impossible with him as with anyone else, I want to give reference to the many moments and bits and pieces that Linklater placed either by accident on purpose. The fact is Boyhood is chock full of these markers of the passage of time which make it a fascinating journey of human life.
Here we go, get ready:
Coldplay’s Yellow over the credits
Britney Speares fandom
Star War dilemma: Yoda vs. Grievous
Game Boys and Wave Boards
The Astros’ Rocket Roger Clemens
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The Landlord – Will Ferrell
High School Musical – We’re All in This Together
Wii Boxing with a Nunchuk
Presidential Election in 2008
The Dark Knight
Phoenix – 1901
War in Iraq and Afghanistan
Lady Gaga and Beyonce
Gotye – Somebody That I Used to Know
Atlas Genius – Trojan
and on and on….
Against this backdrop, the separation of Mason’s parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) takes center stage. Next, follows another failed relationship riddled with abuse. Switching cities and starting a new life followed by another step-dad and another failed marriage. Then, dad (Hawke) gets remarried and it actually works out. There’s peer pressure and experimentation. Girls become a big deal. Photography is a passion. Sister (Lorelei Linklater) goes through the rebellious phase. High School graduation comes around and college soon after. Breakups happen and life still continues ever onward.
You could make an argument that Linklater could have gone on longer. He could have wrapped everything up nice and neat or cheated and fast forwarded to the end. But that was not his way out and it did not have to be. College is a major moment of change, confusion, and finding oneself, so in a sense, it is a fitting place to leave Mason behind.
He remained introspective, philosophical, and aloof for the majority of his life, despite family of origins issues and the like. It is mind-boggling to think of all the people cycled in and out of his life. Ever changing and often forgotten.
Thus, Boyhood is a gift to us for a multitude of reasons, but hopefully, its visual biography of Mason Jr. will lead us down memory lane and cause us to consider our path. For most of us, we have more than 12 years in front of us. Let us use our time well and wholeheartedly navigate the realities of life whether it is movie worthy or not. It’s our life and that’s all that matters.