“The cinema is an invention without a future.”
Attributed to Louis Lumière, 1895.
Cinema is evolving. That’s a fact and there is no need to look for stronger proof of that than “Boyhood”. Inventor of cinema was wrong when he thought that cinema is one-night wonder, that people will soon have enough of moving pictures and turn themselves to the “higher forms” of entertainment like books or theater. Today, cinema evolved to the artistic form that can be as high as those mentioned above and we can be certain not only that it has a future, but we can also be positively curious about the direction of that future.
“Boyhood” is ambitious project of Richard Linklater, one of the favorite directors of the demanding audience, and in many different technical characteristics it can be viewed as the next step in the cinematic evolution. In the beginning we have Mason and Samantha, siblings of the divorced parents that are living their usual lives. When they meet their father and mother it seems that film in front of us is just another family drama. However, Linklater made few things differently and not all of them are interesting only from the director’s point of view. First of all, he decided to give us “slices of life”, little parts of every-day living of the characters without any special plot or action integrated in it. He decided to take the span of 12 years with same actors and the same characters in real time and give us ordinary life in extraordinary way. If “Boyhood” was shoot in any other way it wouldn’t be so significant nor as good. It would be just another coming-of-age drama which wouldn’t give us any different view on the problem or on the characters involved. With these actions Linklater made the movie interesting. Total opposite of, for instance, “Nightcrawler” in which we can see another pole of interest for today’s society. Extremes, murders, actions, accidents. That’s what selling the papers, that’s what gives the ratings. “Boyhood” has no intention to thrive on the low passions we all have. “Boyhood” tried to make ordinary life the most important, and only, subject of the movie.
Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane made quartet prepared to commit themselves to the 12 year period of shooting, and their persistence along with that of Richard Linklater, is what made “Boyhood” possible. “Slices of the ordinary” in the movie started with moving-out (“Samantha! Why don’t you say goodbye to that little horseshit attitude, okay, because we’re not taking that in the car.”) and continued with drama in which all four important characters (Mason, Mason Sr./Dad, Samantha and Olivia/Mom) passed through different stages of maturity and responsibility. In that quartet Lorelei Linklater is maybe the weakest link, but it is understandable that some compromises were the result of the specialty of the project.
If you want action, tension, conflict, complicated and unpredictable plot maybe you should avoid “Boyhood”. It won’t deliver anything of it. It will give you something (as Python would say) completely different. It will give you ordinary life that could be yours and that could be wonderful. That alone is, all technical wonders aside, worth of the time invested in “Boyhood”. Wonderful is primarily aesthetic category, but it can be emotional as well. “Boyhood” is playing on the card of your emotions, even if those emotions are something that you still need to figure out just like Mason did in the quote below:
“I finally figured it out. It’s like when they realized it was gonna be too expensive to actually build cyborgs and robots. I mean, the costs of that were impossible. They decided to just let humans turn themselves into robots. That’s what’s going on right now. I mean, why not? They’re billions of us just laying around, not really doing anything. We don’t cost anything. We’re even pretty good at self-maintenance and reproducing constantly. And as it turns out, we’re already biologically programmed for our little cyborg upgrades. I read this thing the other day about how when you hear that ding on your inbox, you get like a dopamine rush in your brain. It’s like we’re being chemically rewarded for allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. How evil is that? We’re fucked.”
That quote is for me one of the most important quotes of the film. That quote reveals the intention of the movie. In the world of “Nightcrawler” (to make an extreme parallel) “Boyhood” focuses on things that won’t make us into brainwashed vultures that are feeding on other people misery, it focuses on totally unimportant “small things of life” that make the life worth living. Linklater tried to make realistic movie in which everything will seem real and within it he made his testament to life. We could see that same ideas in “Before” trilogy but he never gave them the kind of depth and meaning he did in “Boyhood”. In a sense, he maybe overdid it. In some aspects he maybe made it like a caricature but every revolution is extreme when you think about it. In one way or another every evolution is ridiculous.
I heard a lot of criticism on “Boyhood”. You can like it, you can hate it but nobody can deny the significance of it. Linklater showed us that movies about ordinary things can be made if we make them in extraordinary way. Maybe not the next step of cinematic revolution but we can see it as a hint of right direction. Direction opposite to reality shows and exploiting comedies without meaning. We can also see it as snobbish.
Whatever you think of it, it’s worth watching. To show us that cinema today has its future but maybe most importantly to show us that we still have to grow up and find our own way within the “robots of today.” “Boyhood” is nominated for the bunch of Oscars, and it’s the main favorite for the Best Director and the Best Movie award but we’ll see what will happen. Despite of the introductory quote, this is the great year for the movies. Great Award season is ahead of us. We can just be exited about its outcome. I’m looking forward to the new inventions of the future. “Boyhood” could be just the first step of the wonderful things ahead of us.