Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Boyhood

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Boyhood (IFC Films)

Boyhood Poster

Written & Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring Ellar ColtranePatricia ArquetteLorelei Linklater & Ethan Hawke

That little snot-nosed kid from the beginning is all grown up by the end. Boyhood is one of the best films I have ever seen. It is less of a conventional movie than even Birdman. I still think Iñárritu deserves Best Director but I now think Boyhood deserves Best Picture. Here is a movie that depressed me in many ways because it was like seeing someone else’s life while immediately and viscerally it brings up memories of your own. I would even go so far as to say that nothing happens in the movie proper but it pushes play on your own life’s memory in your own mind. Boyhood is an experience. Different for everyone. A solitary experience. I was already in awe of Richard Linklater. He was already a god in my eyes. Is there a position above god? Because he deserves a promotion.

Verdict: SPARED

Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane

I couldn’t spoil this movie if I wanted to. So little happens but a life happens. We see a family’s growth in twelve years. Not just the boy from the title. We see him age from 6 to 18. If you’re over the age of 18 then you know what the movie is about. We also see his sister grow and mature and his parents grow and mature. Not just the actors but the characters, they become better people than they are at the start. And even as it centers on little Mason Jr., I would say he matures the least of this amazingly relate-able family.

Lorelei Linklater

And again the details of his growth are specific and non-specific. There is so much of his life unseen, that we the audience get to fill-in the blank spots with our own memories. Our own stories. Our own images. It is a rare and wonderous thing for a film to not have a plot. Not one you can see. To not have a theme. Not one you can feel. But to elicit such an emotional response. Such an individual, emotional response. It’s like it’s not even a fucking movie. You know?

Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane

You know that part in It’s a Wonderful Life when Clarence is trying to convince Bailey that his life was good and that he was important or some such nonsense. This movie plays like that. Boyhood is a visit from an angel showing you a childhood you never had. You know that part in A Christmas Story when the ghost shows Ebenezer his Christmases past? Well then Boyhood is the ghost of Christmas past. Christmases you never knew you had. You know that thing where a movie is so good that your review of it starts to sound like pretentious horse shit and really it could never do the film justice. Boyhood is that film and this review, that horse shit. Honestly Boyhood defies description. I am blown away.

Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t identify with most of it. That was not my life on the screen. My life was the one playing in my head. Sometimes better. Sometimes worse. By the time our hero reaches the age of 16 and he’s not sleeping in the park, in shelters or the subway, it’s not me. When our hero graduates from High School he’s done something I never did. But even then, once it got to the stuff I’d never done. The years I’d never lived. It got really fucking good. Love and life and things and stuff that I’ve only seen in movies.


And I expected the film to jump cut through Mason’s life. For each year to feel like its own separate thing. But Boyhood is fluid. It is so fluid and so gradual and so effortless. Boyhood is a sublime cinematic experience that will never be duplicated. Not even by someone else buying a ticket to the same theater or by me watching the movie again. Those twelve years on the screen and the years in m-m-memory can only be lived once. Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m gonna go cry. I owe myself a good cry.

Boyhood star Ellar Coltrane through the years

I leave you with my top ten Linklater films:

Boyhood (The best)
Dazed and Confused (Alright, alright, alright)
Before Sunrise (Julie Delpy!)
Waking Life (Mind Blown)
Before Sunset (More Julie Delpy)
A Scanner Darkly (Linklater & Philip K. Dick [Need I say more?])
Before Midnight (Hello again old friends)
Slacker (My life before Slacker & my life after Slacker)
Bernie (Jack Black)
Fast Food Nation (See how the sausage is made)

Thank you, sir.

– Mel


2 thoughts on “Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Boyhood

  1. Pingback: Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: The Imitation Game | Mel Rook & The 7 Deadly Sins

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