I saw Boyhood when it was first released on DVD. Actually, I came into the room maybe half an hour in while my parents were watching it and I stayed until the end. I understood the concept behind what it took to get the movie made, but for whatever reason, the movie just didn’t resonate with me. It was fine and interesting, but not transcendent.
The film, directed by Richard Linklater of Dazed and Confused and the Before Trilogy, gathered its cast and crew once a year for 12 years as it told the story of Mason, a young boy maturing into a young adult. When you think about it, you realize that it’s quite the feat. Typically when you watch a film about a person maturing or growing up, it’s completely different actors playing the young and the present day versions of the character. You recognize in Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, that there is an actor playing young Peter Quill (What Oleff) and an actor playing Peter at the time where the movie takes place (Chris Pratt). It’s fairly easy to suspend disbelief in this instance because it happens in movies all the time.
But in Boyhood, you see the character of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) at six years old at the beginning of the film and then at 18 years old at the end. It’s more moving and poignant, at least for me, to see the same actor mature and change along with the character he is portraying. This is what I came to realize as I rewatched the movie recently.
I watched Boyhood again because I gained a lot of respect for Linklater after watching his Before movies. He obviously has a lot to say about life and how it functions in a real, everyday way. Because of course, movies portray life in a completely different way than it actually unfolds. But Linklater tries to blur the line between real life and fiction, especially in Boyhood.
Upon my first viewing of the film and my first viewing of it in six years, I had a completely different experience than I had the first time I saw it. I’m about six years older than Mason was at the end of the movie, but I still feel like we are in similar times in our lives. He just finished high school and is in a big personal transition, while I just finished college within the last couple of years and have been in the transition to independence since then. I understand the desire to try to seize the moment and make the most of my time.
Though I can’t relate directly to Mason’s situation growing up – we had very different childhoods – I do relate to just growing up in general. And I think that’s the magic trick this movie is able to pull off. It depicts a very specific experience of growing up which only a small percentage of its vast audience will be able to relate to strongly. But it is able to elicit a feeling of nostalgia for my own childhood.
While watching the film this time around, I became totally immersed in its world. Linklater’s method of filming completely worked in that sense. It certainly helped that though I’m older than him now, my childhood happened in the same era as Mason’s, almost to the year. I was transported back to my own youth – remembering Roger Clemens dominate for the Houston Astros, reading the Harry Potter books, listening to the new Lady Gaga songs with my friends, and so much more. It’s an era that movies haven’t quite started to widely depict just yet, so it just transported me to a specific place.
Typically, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my past. I tend to be more of a daydreamer than a nostalgic person. But every once in a while, I’ll get into a conversation or a specific frame of mind where I’ll fondly think about my life leading up to where I am now. This is the kind of feeling which Boyhood is able to evoke. It made me think about where I am and where I’ve come from, the people I’ve met and how they’ve impacted my life, the experiences I’ve had and how those experiences have taught me the lessons I take with me to this day.
In the very last scene of the movie, Mason is talking to a new friend at college about how life is just a string of moments which make up life as a whole. His friend flips the famous phrase, seize the moment, and changes it to be the moment seizes us.
“It’s constant,” Mason says. “The moment. It’s like it’s always right now.” And this leads to some flirtatious glances between him and his new friend. Who knows where they might end up? Maybe the moment will seize them and take them to a previously unimagined place in life which will alter their lives for the better.
Living in the moment is what really gives life its meaning. Boyhood doesn’t have a plot the way other coming of age movies do. Linklater didn’t write out every event in the movie and then start filming. He instead went for general milestones in Mason’s life and adapted the movie based on the production’s state at the time. Linklater realized that every moment has meaning and can impact the course of a person’s future. Life is just a series of moments which constantly build on each other to create what we know as our life. Though milestones like graduating high school and going to college are important and meaningful, understanding life is about understanding and appreciating everything which led to these huge milestone moments.
Yes, the ideas that these college freshmen are expressing and exploring for the first time are pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, and even a bit naive. But it’s all part of growing older, part of aging. One day you realize your life is no longer seemingly a cycle with a new grade in school peppered in here and there. If you’re fortunate, you have so much opportunity in front of you. You have the chance to begin the journey towards something extraordinary. All of a sudden there is a new zeal and vigor for life because you realize what potentially lies ahead.
This scene, and the movie in general, genuinely reinvigorated my passion for life and for having new experiences. Over the last seven months, it’s been easy for any sort of passion or excitement to barely even have a spark. Hopelessness abounds in current events, travel restrictions are in place, and popular activities are either massively altered or altogether cancelled. But this movie reminded me of what’s possible.
And I don’t mean I’m off thinking I can be as smart as Einstein or become the next president. I just mean I want to experience more things. With modern technology, the world has shrunk and incredible things don’t wow us like they should. But I think that’s because we don’t allow them to wow us. Boyhood screams to go out and enjoy life. Be amazed. Be wowed. Allow yourself to be in the moment. You just might experience something truly special.