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Innovative Storytelling in Celluloid Bangs the Point Home
"Boyhood" is Richard Linklater's baby: his nuanced theme, his created tale, his directed story of family, acquaintances and friends that grow into a life from one child's boyhood, growing up in Texas. It was a novel idea by Writer /Director Linklater, it was an artistically significant idea, and it worked ... worked well enough to be considered in the upper tier for best picture in the 2015 Oscar presentations.
Is this process of making a film over a twelve year period using the same actors as they age a gimmick or is it true communicative art?
It actually is both gimmick and art, but, hey, that's art - using different tools to amass and communicating themes within the 'human condition'. And in its most robust essence, "Boyhood" is totally within the visual bubble expressing the 'human condition', and it does it extremely well by employing the progressive aging process of actors, who were committed to be part of this grand experiment. The experiment worked. It drug me and my wife, who bore our 4 children, straight into a voyeuristic empathy of that progressive expression of Mason's family - the boy in "Boyhood", who grew up, as the others just grew older, right before our eyes.
Experiencing that process, a very personal, and yet riveting process, drew myself and my dear wife back into what we experienced, and, moreover, what we continue to experience - the visceral interaction with those we care the most about - our family that we made and sustained for so many years. In this relative world of rampant depravity and violence and generational stupidity, we were reminded what it took to protect and sustain our family unit, and what most good family mothers and fathers will predominately tell you - it was a most difficult process, and an unrelenting one at that.
The visceral remembrance of this ordeal, while watching this fine little film in the relative safety of our den, with most of our own children now embroiled in their own family unit conundrum, was "Boyhood's" communicative art. The film helped us strip away the continued pressures to get back to that place of remembrance of our nesting years, and moreover, connected us with our children again, as they struggle now to do their loving best to nurture their beginning broods.
For us, it was the 'circle of life' motif, and we felt that circle as if it was real, as if it was us, not Mason's family. For Mason's family was far different than ours, but that prescient theme, in the visual progression of Director Linklater presenting the world in 165 minutes of runtime, made Mason's family a virtual extension of our own; their struggles, their joys were almost as real as if it were us and our children. That connection is the foundation that made this film work for us, and yet, I can well understand if this film did not work for you. On some level, some folks may need to have had children first, but then again, everyone has been a child once.
And that may be an important component of this film; it was a kid film, and definitely an adult film simultaneously. It was also a well acted film, where all the actors - some for the first time - just endeavored to keep it real. There is, however, one other arguable factor to this film: It is a very successful film - critically and at the box office. While the film has received critical high praise - multiple nominations and awards - it also did well at the box office. In theatrical release this small 'indie' film made 44 million dollars, and while that does not sound like a huge sum, the film only cost 4 million to make. You do the math.
The movie did well. The formula of the progression of actor's ages intertwine into the fabric of the family unit was an immense success, possibly greater than anyone expected, even the participants. The greatest form of flattery, for this innovative technique, will be if multitudes of film story creators engage this gimmick in an upcoming project. Time will tell, but a small warning here, something is only original once. "Boyhood" is that original art that succeeded and regardless of its critical praise, of its many nominations and some awards, the film will be remembered.
Rated R. Released on DVD January 6, 2015.
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