Imagine a Hollywood director obtaining the raw footage of your childhood. Pretend everything you did between age 6 and 18 was caught on film and someone wanted to piece together a 3 hour movie of your story.
What do you think the director would find? What do you think would be the story of your youth?
That’s the question director Richard Linklater tries to answer in his fascinating film experiment “Boyhood”, the front-runner in this year’s Academy Awards race.
You’ve probably heard by now the way Linklater gathered the same cast together for a week every year for 12 years to shoot the story about an ordinary boy growing up. It’s a well-deserving Best Picture candidate, and not just for the incredibly creative gimmick.
What’s truly beautiful about “Boyhood” is the way it captures just how important the ordinary moments in our life are.
One of the criticisms levied against the movie has been the lack of a cohesive plot. There’s not a true narrative at play in this story. The film is more or less 12 individual scenes pieced together with small connecting points but lacking a larger storyline.
This is not a fault in the movie, but rather a strategic choice. As Linklater put it to Entertainment Weekly, “Our lives don’t have plot so much as they have character and a time structure.”
The lack of a traditional narrative may be off-putting to some. But I love the way Linklater plays with our idea of what makes for an important story.
Because I think if you go back to the idea of making a movie out of the scenes of your childhood, you might find the same to be true.
I bet if you really thought about it, the movies pieced together of our lives would be less like a grand epic film and more like “Boyhood” – a series of smaller scenes which don’t seem like much on the surface but when pieced together tell an important and meaningful story.
The most important moments of your life don’t usually involve sword fights or superpowers. They don’t look anything like most movies.
Rather it’s the conversations inside bowling alleys or the shouting matches between stepparents at the dinner table which end up meaning the most. It’s the characters you meet hanging out after curfew or the photography teacher giving you advice in a darkroom that have the most impact on you.
It’s those little moments which make up our movies. As we see these moments play out in “Boyhood”, we recognize something else about our lives.
The things which seem so important and so confusing in life have something common. They are both moments leading to something greater.
As we watch the main character Mason grow into a young adult, there are high points and low points. He meets a girl he likes. He gets into shouting matches with his parents. He has a traumatic haircut.
Anyone can relate. We’ve all been there. These times often feel like life or death moments as they are happening.
It is only with the perspective and wisdom of a year or more down the road that we can see these moments as they are.
These moments – the great ones, the terrible ones, the in-between – they are all pieces of the narrative, not the narrative itself.
What we think is the devastating event in our life is not the end of the world. What we think to be a small insignificant occurrence is actually foreshadowing something pivotal to our narrative.
At the same time these ordinary moments moments are as critically important as they are trivial.
No matter the moment, life goes on. It is up to us whether we choose to view ourselves as better or worse off from our experiences.
Will we let the small moments drag us down and be defined by the depressing? Or will we choose to hold on to the hope that something greater is going on?
I’d love it if we found out 12 years from now that somehow Linklater had coerced the actors to continue gathering every year to film a sequel to “Boyhood”, if somehow we got to watch this boy grow into an adult with the same fascinating concept.
After all, I think the older I get into adulthood the more I could use a reminder like “Boyhood” that some of the most ordinary moments in life have the power to be extraordinarily beautiful.
Have you seen “Boyhood” yet? What did you think?