Hey, I’ve been shooting home movies of my kids for the last 15 years or so, can I get a movie deal?
“Boyhood” is Richard Linklater’s latest ode to realism, following a family’s meandering story over a 12 year stretch. But here’s the thing, he actually took 12 years to shoot it. That’s right, over the course of 12 years he would gather these same actors together every once in a while to shoot the next few scenes and thus follow the natural aging of this boy from 6 to 18. It’s an incredible feat and makes “Boyhood” one of those movies who’s story off the screen can almost eclipse the story being told on the screen. But guess what, that story is pretty interesting too.
And in many ways it’s interesting because of how the movie was made. For one, it’s amazing to see some of the topics and moments throughout the last decade and know that those scenes didn’t have to be faked. They actually happened in those time periods. Sometimes a movie can shoot a scene from the past and there are in jokes that feel scripted for an audience who lives in a known future to chuckle at. But here any of those moments are completely genuine. Plus it plays right into Linklater’s expertise of just telling basic human stories. It’s a testament to his genius that this feels like a real family with very real issues and very real moments. And watching this real kid age is genuinely compelling. In fact, one of the best compliments I can give the movie is that even though it lasted almost 3 hours, I kinda wanted it to keep going. There’s this incredible momentum and drive that happens when you realize you’ve jumped another year or two, and we get to check in with these people we continue to get to know. But the best thing for me, was the way the movie almost toyed with our typical movie expectations. There were moments in this movie where the audience would gasp because they were sure they knew where a scene was headed or what would happen, and then Linklater would just continue on with the story he was telling, as if to say, nope, real life isn’t actually that dramatic, it’s just a series of moments. Not to say there wasn’t drama in the story, but it never felt manufactured or melodramatic.
Of course shooting over 12 years has it’s downsides too. Like for instance, not knowing if your child actors will grow up to be adult actors. It’s a good thing that the boy in boyhood grew up to do some decent acting because his sister didn’t quite get there. Of all the performances, hers was the one that took me out of the movie the most, but again it’s easy to forgive when you consider the level of difficulty to this kind of undertaking.
At the end of the day, Boyhood is a miracle of filmmaking from a visionary director. the fact that it even exists is a testament to its greatness, and the perseverance of a dedicated cast and crew. Even if the kids didn’t all grow up to be great actors, the well told story, and authenticity to the presentation are enough to mature this to a B+