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BoyHood: The Most Disappointing Movie Ever Made

Released in 2014 and directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood is a coming-of-age movie that follows Mason Eves (Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of 6 to 18 as he goes through the joys and pitfalls of growing up while dealing with his volatile family. What drew me to the movie was the fact that it was filmed over the course of 12 real years and used the same cast throughout. However, what may initially seem like an amazingly innovative concept quickly reveals itself to be a rushed (if that is even possible), bland and ultimately disappointing piece of work. 

To begin with, I want to start with what I actually did like about the movie. For example, the cinematography was as to be expected from Linklater - absolutely stunning. In addition, I did take pleasure in the early years section, particularly when Mason and his father go on a camping trip as I found that to be more heartfelt and meaningful than what was to follow. 

One of the major draws of Boyhood is its relatability; we see Mason bond and fight with his family, meet new people, try new hobbies, see new places, and discover new things which undoubtedly taps into the audience’s nostalgia but that is all it has. Mason ends up being the most paper-thin, average projection vessel whom we spend 166 minutes with and learn almost nothing about. Sure, we watch things happen to him but nothing is revealed about his personality, his thoughts, or his dreams aside from the fact that he likes photography and thinks he is profound (he is not). Mason never develops outside of his height and haircut and is never an engaging protagonist, you don’t even find out if you’re supposed to like him or not. So, while I am familiar with Richard Linklater’s understated style of direction and have enjoyed his subtle storytelling before, I can’t count Boyhood among one of Linklater’s typical deep character studies. The man had 12 (!!!!) years to figure out the direction he wanted to take his film, and he never did.

Another gripe I have with this movie is the way it treats the parent characters. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke give terrific performances as Mason’s distant, divorced parents who are flawed individuals in their own rights and absolutely carry the film BUT they both go through the most unconvincing, confusing, and unintentional character arcs. Firstly, Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) is a representation of the typical unreliable and immature divorced dad who struggles to connect with his children. Now, where my problems start is when, suddenly, Mason Sr’s personality flips on its head and he becomes a Bible-thumping hick who tucks in his shirt, lives on a farm, and has his life all together with no explanation at all. 

Oppositely, Mason’s mother, Olivia, has the problem of never developing. She is supposed to be the uptight mother struggling with being a single parent but who does, at the end of the day, have her children’s best interests at heart. This may seem like a good base for a character, and you would be right if she ever became anything more than that. Time and time again, we check in with Olivia and she has not progressed from the point we last saw her, she still is in a relationship with an abusive alcoholic (which could have led to a powerful storyline if it didn’t seem so gimmicky and shallow) and is still somehow in the process of packing up her house before moving. Eventually, her arc culminates in the most emotional scene of the film where Olivia breaks down as Mason is leaving to go to university. However, the intensity of this scene is undercut as she begins to tearfully describe the inner workings of her mind IN DETAIL, basically teaching the audience what they should have taken away from her character. In comparison to Richard Linklater’s other work, the way Olivia and Mason Sr were handled feels like a betrayal and an insult to the audience.

Furthermore, it is glaringly obvious that these people do not know each other!! The result of this is a cold, lifeless product where the family speaks at each other, and side characters disappear as fast as they arrive. Messy breakups quickly follow first love scenes, friends have just moments of screen time and I suppose this could represent how memory sometimes works, but it still feels disappointing. 

In summary, Boyhood falls flat for me. It spends 2 and a half hours meandering around a “plot” and fails to leave any sort of impact. Not to mention its egregious sin, its protagonist is annoying. Overall, go watch Moonlight or Ladybird instead!!

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