Life is never about the big picture stuff, but the little details and moments that move each year forward. That seemingly overly-simple sentence sums up the essence of “Boyhood”, a movie that lives in and for all the small moments.
The movie, directed by Richard Linklater over the course of 12 years, tells the almost impossible story of growing up through the life of a small boy who grows into an adult (played brilliantly over 12 years by Ellar Coltrane). Now the first type of movie that pops into your head is the kind where he meets that one girl who he falls in love with and whom he bases his whole life on, or the struggles of dealing with parents who don’t “get him”, or any other kind of useless Young
Adult style crap that comes out now. But remember; small moments.
There’s no emphasis on that one big relationship that signifies true love, because in growing up it’s about all the different little high school “friends” that we experience. You don’t remember that one big life affirming talk with mom or dad (in this case, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke), but going on camping trips and them reading you Harry Potter in bed and all little chit chats you have along the way.
The same applies to the boy’s everyday life as well. When he’s young he rides bikes, messes with his sister, plays video games, looks at pictures of boobs in Victoria’s Secrets magazines, moves away, etc. As he grows older he learns about girls, music, politics, proper hair growth, deals with drunken step dads and eventually goes to college. These little instances move the movie forward, because it’s what we as adults remember. People like to think they remember they’re first beer, or kiss, or smoke of something, but what truly comes to mind it “I started drinking when I was…” or “I started dating when I was…”. It’s all the little moments of kissing, drinking or even playing video games that add up and define your age.
That’s the best part of the movie: Sure we haven’t all dealt with terrible step parents or gone to a midnight release of the new Harry Potter (which I can easily say caused the biggest swipe of glee over the audience), but Linklater made sure to include all the wild variations on childhood that spans billions of adolescent lives. It’s a movie anyone can relate to and— thanks to a hilarious script that has no time for “artistic” musings—sit through with joyous ease despite its almost 3 hour runtime.
As well, this easily could’ve been a movie that ignores these facts, and instead lives in a flashbacks and non-linear style that reeks of a pretentious ooze (ahem, “Tree of Life”, ahem). But Linklater is a first-class storyteller who knows how to string ever thing together. There is never a scene that reference the past. The movie always moves forward, never looking back. Nor does it rely on cues to say how much time has passed. Instead Linklater pays so much attention to the little details that make up the time period. Political candidates, world crisis, toys, games, which Potter book is out, how kids introduce themselves to sex and, most notably, music, all help move the story forward and give you a firm sense of time and space—If the abundance of long greasy hair, peach fuzz and zits don’t already.
This is what we call in the business a perfect. Sure, I don’t love it as much as say last year’s “Gravity”, but director and writer Richard Linklater had a clear vision to make a sweet, often intense, but always endearing work about what it’s really like to grow up, and he succeeded without a single flaw. A lot of that credit can go to the amazing cast who were able to stay in character for 12 years, and in the case of Ellar Coltrane, we see him evolve into a fantastic actor right before our eyes. It’s a movie that rings nostalgia for us all who’ve already gone through all of this, and an invaluable tool for those who are and ever will. Not only is it perfect, it’s eternal.