When I first heard about Boyhood, I was impressed, yes, with the film’s 12 years of shooting time, though not as much as the average viewer. Two years ago, I interned at Rada Film Group, the production company behind American Promise, a documentary that much like Boyhood, filmed a young boy from the age of six to the age of eighteen. My exposure to the feat of 12 years of filming at Rada frankly blunted my reaction to the immense amount of time and effort invested into Boyhood; While I was intrigued to see a fictional compilation of 12 years of film, the concept wasn’t actually novel to me.
Having said that, Boyhood is the most impressive movie I’ve seen this summer–and I’ve seen some great ones, including Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur. It’s an anthology of one boy’s childhood, a compilation of moments both formative and revelatory–allowing viewer to see the events that shape the characters, as well as the results. The simple chronological structure chosen for the film is perfect–when combined with the filming style, watching Boyhood feels like watching a child grow up and transform before your eyes: it’s child development for the impatient. Even with the inclusion of recognizable actors such as Ethan Hawke (playing the boy’s dad) and Patricia Arquette (the boy’s mom), the film feels real; a mixed bag of momentous occasions and the more mundane; silences, gregariousness, and one-word responses; happiness, awkwardness, and fear.
Besides allowing you to experience the growth of one boy into a sensitive and artistic young man, Boyhood also invites you to reminisce about your own past, through the evolution of fashion and music unfolding on the screen. The long hair sweeping over the eyes, ever so carefully brushed to the side and flipped upwards reminded me of the boys in middle school; Sheryl Crowe’s “Soak Up the Sun” took me back all the way to elementary. Boyhood, thus, not only gives you the thrilling experience of watching one boy’s physical and emotional evolution over 12 years in 166 minutes, but also allows you to relive a little bit of your own.