True/False Film: Boyhood

Riding on a shuttle to the airport with the star of Richard Linklater's Boyhood, a narrative film about the maturation & environment of a young boy that was shot over twelve years to capture the actual growth of the actor & provide a strange plane of reality to the fiction, really reinforced True/False's decision to choose this scripted film as the closing piece of their documentary film festival. Seeing the real boy, Eller Coltrane, behind the character, Mason Jr., gave me a brief, panicked flash of Truman Syndrome: was I being watched since this boy is? But, hm, he's not being filmed, right? That was a movie. One that I am not actually part of at all. The story of his character ended and was encapsulated there on screen...but, wait, his life didn't really end since this boy will continue to grow and his trajectory is going to keep hurtling forth into space & time. We are just no longer able to peek in on his life, or this hybrid life of on & off screen, a fine line reinforced by Eller who, in the post film Q&A, talked of how Linklater imbued the script with pieces of his actual life, Eller's costumes oftentimes his own wardrobe. With Boyhood Linklater managed to do something no one has in a long, long time: bring the medium of film even closer to the reality it has always pretended to be. And I say all this without even being a huge Linklater fan.

Linklater's writing sometimes feels like a wooden plank to me, and it is often mimicked in student films minus any of the nuance that comes with age. But with this film his stilted Brechtian dialogue was flooded with such a touching concept that it humanized even the most flat of his signature monologue-like dialogues. Seeing the development of a Linklater character across this span of time, growing into the voice that the director uses, also added to the believability of the character/director voice, seeing the sweet pot-smoking philosopher tone as it naturally develops in a life, real or fake. Boyhood found a way to reveal the director, or maybe the universe the director has created, in a way that makes all his other work make sense to me now. Whether autobiographical or not I saw the development of the thinking white boy protagonist typical of Linklater (and a lot of his contemporaries) and understood the places from which this tradition comes from. I harp on the overabundance of sad sack cerebral white guy characters in indie film (and I still don't think we need so many of them!!!) but Boyhood let me see the places from which this thematic choice comes from- that of male pride, sensitivity, competition, fear- and acted as a story about the development of the male indie director culture as much as it did about this character as he moves about his daily life of homework, divorces, and haircuts.
With this film you are looking in on the feeling of real life over twelve consecutive years; real houses reflecting the real styles of the times, a startling thing to see in quick succession (well, not so quick since the movie is 2 hours and 45minutes long), making transparent our ever evolving versions of reality. The change in music, the change in cars, the change in electronic devices, clothes, bookbags, are all laid out chronologically, plain and simple in a way that makes you able to notice the miniscule changes that we immediately take for granted on a daily basis and the way we so quickly disregard the immediate past. Boyhood allows you to pause not only on the life of the main character but on the lives of us all, letting us bear stark witness to seemingly fleeting detail, choice, and human interaction that we are confronted with each minute into hour, year into decade. All of these details and choices are what make a life, and a world, both in a film and outside of a film, and this is why Boyhood is most definitely a work of nonfiction.  



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.