by Jaime Grijalba.
We could talk ad-eternum about the virtuosities present in something as important and impressive in its final form as ‘Boyhood’ (2014) is. We could talk about the 12 years that it took to shoot, how it captures a generation, how it manages to get an emotional pull from the simple fact of watching people grow up in a short period narrative. It’s not like it’s an unique experiment in the world of filmmaking, in this year there’s been many attempts at takedowns, like people trying to say that it was done better by the Up! Series by Michael Apted, or how certain eternal North American soap operas have had directors for episodes through years with a fixed set of characters, and in a way watching them grow. But this is new and it manages not exactly to be better, but to be an entirely different experience, by having 12 years of real time go through the screen (and for those of us in which those 12 years represent almost half of your lifespan, it’s incredible in what it manages to entice in terms of feelings and emotions at different moments) in almost three hours of film that we are obligated to experience in one sitting, that is something that could certainly be called unique. Specially when it’s a closed narrative that starts at an specific moment and ends in the exact moments that it needs to end, since any of the other examples until now have been about narratives that are open ended because of either the market in which they work or due to the documentary fashion of following the life of people as they grow up.
Now, once again I seem to start these reviews in a responsive manner, as if this movie needed defending, not that it matters for the discussion that we are having in these essays, but this is the movie that is favorite for winning the Oscar for Best Film, and unless something comes out of the blue, it does deserve it, in my opinion. But now more than ever I seem to be conscious of the critical and cultural world that surrounds any film, specially the reactions that come “after the fact”, or even I’d be bold to even call them reactions “after the praise”. People who after everyone and their uncle has called this film something great in terms of the filmmaking art that we critique every day, come with petty (yet admirable, in a way) reclamations of how certain movies “aren’t really that good” or “they’re ok, don’t know what the fuss is about”. While they do voice sometimes honest opinions, I think that the need for them is almost obligatory whenever a highly regarded film comes out, and it turns tiring after a few months of the same kind of narrative of “offended” and “outraged” that they just seem to work towards getting that reaction, by nitpicking and finding those innocent moments that we enjoy and load them with this evil significance that you’d never thought it’d have, and make you feel guilty about what you just thought you loved.
Now this isn’t a formal response to any of those pieces or thoughts tweeted or described or even paid for, but merely a cry to the wind. Let barking dogs lie, or something like that.
Personally, I think that this film moved me for many reasons, but one of those reasons aren’t the relatable qualities that many people have cried about this one, specially since this kid is from a completely different generation than mine, we are (after all) 6 years apart if we take the last year as 2013, when he turns 18, enough to have a certainly different cultural background (I did enjoy the Harry Potter books, but around the book that they feature in this movie, I was almost getting into university, but hey, I truly and really loved the books, and still do), but also a completely different childhood experience. While my generation of parents did get divorced, it was much more common for the later generations (my girlfriend has a much closer experience to the life and even the generation of Coltrane’s character in ‘Boyhood’, and while she saw herself in many things, I don’t think that she was as moved as I was). I think that the experience of this movie isn’t about teenagers and adults watching the film and seeing there things that they did or things that happened when they were growing up, I think it’s about the distance that one has to the process of boyhood (or girlhood) in itself. It’s been 7 years since I turned 18 and I already can see myself maybe not as a wiser man, but one that can look back and find the value in the little things that happen, in those small movements of hands, the pats on the head, the small ticks in the faces and eyes of the parents, those who teach more than you think, and just now you realize it how important those were.
While certainly people seem to be a little just too over the top when it comes to the praise that this film deserves (I think that while admirable at maintaining a visual style, the cinematography, colors and the beauty of the film itself isn’t something to write home about), but I think there’s one element that must not be taken lightly when it comes to the power that this film has, and that lies completely and absolutely on the editing of the film itself. The way in which the years go by, practically without you noticing how we are in one moment at certain moment and the next in another, with the same rhythm that had the previous sequences, and the sudden importance of the change in what we don’t see, it is at times a metaphor on the power of film itself and how some people have said (theorists, critics, viewers) that the power of the film and the emotion can be found in the cut, in the power of the editing. That’s because we have the tendency to “fill the gaps”, and it’s in that moment in our mind that we find the gaps and we fill them either with moments, word or emotions, were the feelings start to appear. Here is similar, it’s in the moments that we “miss” in the life of Coltrane and Linklater, the two kids, were we find ourselves wanting to know more, but at the same time we know enough to understand and to see the emotion flow inside of us and fill us with that dread or happiness that we need to understand what’s going on.
It’s a superb film because it is a portrait of a human experience, and that’s something we can all expect from cinema to deliver from time to time. Simple human experience, turned cinematic.