REVIEW: Boyhood

14 07 2014

BoyhoodWriter/director Alexander Payne has said of cinema’s advent, “I think that mankind had been looking for this magnificently verisimilar art form which really mirrors life.”  And like an answer to an unspoken prayer, “Boyhood” arrives after over a century of narrative cinema to show that the medium has far from exhausted its capabilities of wondrously recalling life beyond the screen.

Richard Linklater’s film is at odds with notions of conventional fictional cinema, resembling a curated ethnography in its creation.  “Boyhood” condenses twelve years of shooting a young boy growing up through his grade school years into under three hours, not into a prescribed narrative arc but into a singular sort of time capsule.

It’s not crossing off significant life experiences of childhood and adolescence from a preordained bucket list.  It’s not out to provide an alternate cultural history through a child’s eyes.  It’s not trying to make some grand statement about the ever-changing nature of boyhood (nor about the various things that seem to stay the same).  It’s not even necessarily moving towards any sort of dramatic climax other than the ultimate one we all have to face, that of the end of time.

Instead, “Boyhood” focuses mostly on the mundane moments and the routine conversations, so literally portraying “slices of life” that no film can really lay claim to the phrase anymore.  Yet in the sheer act of capturing these everyday occurrences, Linklater elevates the profane to the level of sacred.  These brief and otherwise insignificant flashes of childhood are nothing, yet they are also somehow everything.

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