Posted by: da_nibbler | March 1, 2015

Boyhood – or how I learned to embrace an opinion different from everyone else…

Before Boyhood was properly released the film was already buzzing with critical acclaim. To say I was excited to see it would be an understatement. It was at the top of my list of films I just HAD to see. When I eventually did I was underwhelmed, disappointed even. The film seemed to have hit a nerve with everyone but me. What bothered me most about it was that i could not put my finger on WHY. After a second viewing, which improved my opinion of the film, I decided to write it all down:

I had no emotional connection to the lead at all. That is not unusual for me, but not being able to connect to ANY of the characters in the film struck me as odd. The entire experience felt superficial, nothing had depth. We see the mom getting together with yet another man. A few scenes later it is a few years later – not that anyone would know if not for the lead’s different hair style – and we find the mom beaten, which sparks another move. Yet all we see the characters do in reaction to what happened is having them sit at a table, the mom crying, daughter staring on and the boy playing Wii Sports. Next scene, nothing further said about it or have any impact on the film or their lives. That about sums up the film for me; stuff happens, yet no one but the mom seems to care.

The unique 12 year production cycle of this film is its downfall. Linklater seemed to have too much footage to cram into a two to three hour film and what we are presented with are mere snippets, edited together in chronological order. Too much footage to allow anyone but the lead boy Mason to get much screentime. Supporting characters only function as wallpaper and events are ticked off a checklist. His high school girlfriend is shown, I cannot call it an introduction, CHECK! A few scenes later we see them together in a post breakup chat, CHECK! If only we had known anything about them and their relationship we might have cared, but all we are allowed to witness are the bulletpoints off a white boy’s teen life checklist.

Speaking of „white“, this film is as white as I’d like my sheets to be. Given how multi-cultural our society is nowadays I cannot believe Linklater’s view of the world. The only non-white person we get to see is a Mexican worker who gets „saved“ by the mom character as she tells him he’s intelligent and should go to school. So of course we see him again later as a restaurant manager, thanking the mom for making him go back to school.

That scene in particular irked me as two rather patronising events happen: The conclusion to the mexican guy’s „saving“ by the mom (yay he went to school and made it just because you said so) and the mexican guy helping out the mom, who was having a hard time justifying her decisions to her kids, by telling them she clearly knows what she is talking about (just look at him, he made it because of her). Neither the mexican guy nor the mom needed saving.

The concept of the film is a promising one, follow someone through their life into adulthood. Considering how much drama, discovery and change everyone experiences in their teens I was surprised to find such a dull, unemotional film. Maybe if it had been a boy of colour or – STOP THE PRESS –  a girl this film could have turned into the masterpiece most people make it out to be. The „white male“ is the most priviledged group in existence at the moment. We see them represented everywhere. Why Linklater chose to use someone from that group as his lead given we still live in a time of gender, race and sexual orientation inequality is beyond me. Anyone from these other groups would have provided more ground for an interesting story. White is no longer bright, it is bland. The most profound stories are about the underdog, not the „ruling class“. As much as I hate calling it this black and white this is the world we currently live in and it is art that breaks the bounds, makes us think outside the box and show us something extraordinary. This, unfortunately, is not it.

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Responses

  1. I could not agree with this review more. I found the acting unengaging and the characters just lacking. I also disliked the real lack of story especially when given a 160 minute runtime. I also reviews Boyhood and would love for you to check it and my blog out sometime https://slatethesilverscreen.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/about-a-boyhood-how-i-learned-to-have-an-irrational-dislike-for-one-mans-ridiculous-vision/


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