Life between the milestones. In one of the closing scenes of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood the boy’s mother (Patricia Arquette) breaks down into a tearful soliloquy as she says goodbye to her son, who is departing for college, departing his boyhood. She ticks off various parenting milestones and waves her hand to indicate the emptiness of her nest, the emptiness of the rest of her life now that her children are raised and out the door. Next stop, funeral.

But Linklater’s film hasn’t focused on the milestones. The story—if it can be called a story given that it has no real narrative beginning, middle, or end—meanders through time, peeking in once a year over the span of twelve years in real time at these characters’ lives. The gimmick (filmed over twelve years with the same cast) never seems gimmicky because one scene flows seamlessly into the other and everyone simply ages naturally before our eyes.

Boyhood is not a transformative coming-of-age story where a single incident plucks one from childhood and forces the protagonist to face adulthood. Instead it shows the stumbling progress of real life, where we keep putting one foot in front of another and end up in a different place without much sense of moving forward or accomplishment. No magical demarcation between boyhood and adulthood where you suddenly know what life is all about exists. The adults are still trying to discover meaning.

As the boy says. We do not seize the moment. The moment seizes us. Life is always “right now.”

For my part, I found Boyhood to be Linklater’s best love letter to Austin and Texas. More than any of his movies with this same setting, it evokes the world I inhabit. I walked home from the theater and felt aware of and appreciative of this specific time and place. Everything seemed more real.


Years before I saw Boyhood, I wrote about life lived in the spaces

Comments are closed.

The surface and beneath the surface