Boyhood, Boyhood, Boyhood.
No, but really: Boyhood.
Yes, I know. I’ve pretty much lost the power of intelligible vocabulary, but really, I can’t help it. Just watching that trailer has me tipping my head back against the sofa, a dopey grin on my face, my eyeballs pricking against my eyelids.
Richard Linklater, filming a month a year for 12 years, has, somehow, made a masterpiece. Elves may not be real (see the film), but the both Masons, Sr and Jr, are wrong – magic is, and Linklater has sprinkled this movie with its dust.
Rarely have I been excited about a film that wasn’t a blockbuster. rarely have my hopes been so generously fulfilled. I don’t know if I’ve ever spent so much of a film blinking back the tears being forced up by that kind of heart-swelling warmth that just makes you want to reach your arms out as far as you can go and breathe as deeply as possible.
If Shotgun Lovesongs is the mellow Wisconsin winter of my year, then Boyhood is its younger, sunnier, Texas summer cousin. If you checked in with Mason Jr and Samantha in twenty-years, I wonder if you might find them in a similar kind of place, emotionally, to Henry, Beth, and Lee: tied to their place and their people, gently bruised and heartsore, but on the upside of life. Mostly Happy, maybe.
These are stories about people shaped by their place in the American heartland. Mason Jr is still a child when his family leave Houston for a small town somewhere near San Antonio and Austin, and that’s where he goes from boy to man, becoming a cool kid, but not an urban cool, no, an earthier for whom the bible and the rifle he’s given for his birthday by his step-mother’s family are as much a part of the self he’s finding as his purple nail polish, his earring, and his ever present camera. And I love that.
So let me go
I don’t wanna be your hero
I don’t wanna be a big man
I Just wanna fight like everyone else
You know all these people. The mom doing her utmost to bring up her kids well and give them a good start at life, smart and loving, but with the horrible tendency to pick the wrong men. The dad who takes a little too long to grow up, a charming man-boy trying to do his best at parenting but falling over his own fringe as he does, but eventually hitting most of the right notes and some of the wrong ones (oh, the moments of crying, ‘Nooo, don’t tell your son that about girls!’). The sparky daughter and dreamy son, navigating and bearing the ups and downs of their parents lives with a mixture of moodiness and filial concern.
Richard Linklater just gets people, I think, and then he puts them up on screen. Liv, Mason Sr, Samantha and Mason Jr are all as fully human as Jesse and Celine in the Before… movies, with Liv and Samantha following in Celine’s footsteps as wonderfully rich female characters. I just wish Linklater had filmed Samantha’s side of the story and given us Girlhood as well.
Nothing happens. Everything happens. A boy and his sister grow up. There’s pain. There’s joy. There’s a lot of music.
There’s a moment towards the end of the film where Mason Kr, getting to know his new college friends, is talking to a girl, both slightly high on hash brownies and the dusk at Big Bend, having one of those epiphanic conversations that only teenagers have because only teenagers, so self-conscious in almost every other way, have the artlessness to say the things that those of us who have passed our twenty-first birthdays find a combination of hilarously precious and awkwardly pretentious. And she looks at him, and says:
“You know how they say seize the moment? Sometimes, I think, the moment seizes you.”
Thank heaven for teenagers. Boyhood, as Mason realises as the moment seizes him, is a series of those moments, beautifully captured.
Are my place and time
And here in my own skin
I can finally begin
Let the century pass me by
Standing under night sky
Tomorrow means nothing