Another week means another Netflix review! This time we’ll look at a film that garnered a ton of praise from the Academy Awards but has since become a little divisive: Boyhood! This film has been praised for its technical achievements, but do its emotional beats hold up upon repeat viewings? The following review will be spoiler free.
Boyhood is directed by Richard Linklater and stars Ethan Hawke alongside Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane in a movie that was filmed over a twelve year period to show the young Mason (Coltrane) as he grows into a young adult. The film takes snapshots of Mason’s life through his adolescence, such as family conflicts or other moments that are deemed important to Mason’s development as a person. As he grows, we see not only him change, but we also see everyone around him change as well.
As you are probably well aware by now, Richard Linklater was praised mightily for creating this film over a number years, which seems to be this movie’s claim to fame these days. After the film was released in 2014, Boyhood received much praise from critics for these technical achievements to the point where it was nominated for six Oscars at the 2015 Academy Awards. Given its 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you would think that Boyhood was destined to be viewed as a cinematic classic.
However, the film has since been relatively forgotten for the praise it received upon initial release, failing to capture the imagination of audiences like it did with critics. But this fate for Boyhood may be due to backlash towards the film after the it initially received overwhelmingly positive reviews, similar to the hate that swelled for La La Land this past year once everyone started claiming the film was the best thing since sliced bread.
Is Boyhood deserving of being called a classic? I was determined to find the answer.
What I Didn’t Like
After watching the film, I fall solidly into the camp that doesn’t understand the hype around Boyhood.
I understand that filming over a number of years may be a tad more difficult than a typical production schedule, but I don’t quite understand the praise for Boyhood’s twelve year shoot. It was probably a nightmare to schedule talented actors like Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette due to their involvement in others movies, but does a film deserve to be lauded just because it took longer to shoot? I don’t necessarily think so.
In the same vein, shooting over twelve years, while allowing us to see Mason grow up before our eyes, is actually a detriment to the technical aspects of the film. The camera footage is far superior in the second half of the movie than the first half, which directly coincides with the lesser technology used in the earlier years of Boyhood’s production schedule. These differences lead to visual inconsistency that can be quite jarring as we move forward in time in the film.
What I Liked
Before I rail too hard on Boyhood, I must get it across that Boyhood is certainly not without its merits. The film showcases two stellar performances from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (who would go on to win the Oscar for best supporting actress) who perfectly display the strained relationship of a divorce and what is then required to raise children effectively in such an environment. Their interactions feel incredibly lifelike, a characteristic that director Richard Linklater was obviously attempting to emulate.
The jumps through time also allow for some really fun pop culture references that will bring a smile to your face while also setting a realistic atmosphere for the characters. The music, costume design, and set design of the film allow for fun, little moments as they perfectly set the stage for the scene. Boyhood moves forward in time quite consistently, but the auditory and visual cues allow viewers to know exactly when in time the film currently takes place. Richard Linklater does a lot of showing rather than telling in this respect, a quality that is very appreciated.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued
However, what Linklater is really trying to do with Boyhood is show a “slice of life.” Each event that occurs within the film, whether they’re seemingly important or irrelevant, is meant to explain why and how Mason becomes the person he grows into by the end of the film. The way Linklater attempts to go about this very original (which can certainly be commended) but ultimately void of any emotion necessary for the viewer to become captivated by Mason’s life story.
Take 2016’s Moonlight (you can read my full review here) which has a similar film construction to Boyhood. There is absolutely nothing “Hollywoodized” about Moonlight in that it feels incredibly authentic as you watch the main character, Chiron, grow up before your eyes. Boyhood attempts to have a similar effect. The main difference, however, is that Moonlight creates realistic dialogue and scene composition with a great emotional edge while Boyhood fails. Linklater is so concerned with making Boyhood a movie about life and its uniformity that each moment with Mason feels largely uneventful and without heart.
Kenneth Turan from the Los Angeles Times sums up Boyhood the best by saying that Boyhood is “a film that whose animating idea is more interesting than its actual satisfactions.” Once you get past the fact that Boyhood took twelve to create, is there much to remember this film for? I certainly don’t think so. Boyhood is more or less a hollow movie that lacks stirring dialogue and heartwarming character beats.
I’m not claiming Boyhood is bad movie, because it most certainly is not, but the idea of it being a modern day classic should definitely be reconsidered. Boyhood gets a C+. Film is incredibly subjective so don’t be afraid to dislike a widely praised piece of work.
Thanks for reading! Have you seen Boyhood? What’s a movie that you can’t stand that people seem to love? Respond to the poll and comment down below to make your thoughts heard!
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