Film Review: Boyhood
February 11, 2015
A few nights ago I looked up the list of Oscar nominations and there it was, in the category for Best Picture. I had forgotten about it.
It started off a little slow, to be honest. I wasn’t sure where it was going. And then something happened. Something clicked. The kids got older. The story just unfolded without a lot of flair and the big moments were glossed over while the day to day in between moments happened and then slipped away, and it was the most gut wrenching, tragic and wonderful thing that I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like it; it was so beautiful yet ordinary, it struck a nerve, deep. I’m talking snot and tears mingling, soaking my cheeks. Do you know the premise? Boyhood follows a boy from ages 6-18, and his family, using the same actors over a 12 year period. It’s extraordinary. I can’t give anything away, because the story is a bit of yours and a bit of mine and a bit of everyone.
I saw pieces of myself everywhere, regardless of a character’s gender or age or situation. And isn’t that the point? To break down barriers so that we can see each other? And my God, how lucky would we be if we connect with the souls who see our truest, rawest self. I saw myself in the single, struggling mother (Patricia Arquette is perfect). This movie is just as much about parenthood as it is about boyhood. I saw myself in the questions of a 10 year old boy. I saw my brother, Hunter, and I saw my kids, older. I saw Evelyn with streaks in her hair and Theo kissing a girl. I even mourned so many of the awkward adolescent moments that I never really had. I felt a little jealous as I watched these kids grow up, realizing that my kids have so much ahead of them, and me? Mom? Well, mom just gets left behind, it seems.
It’s not about seizing the moment or networking or eating all organic everything or being different. It’s not about finally making it or when you finally get out of debt or when the kids are all finally in school. It’s not even about work ethic or always knowing the right thing to say or getting it right when it comes to raising your kids. Those are all layers to the bigger story, sure. But it’s about the people, ok? It’s just always about the people—seeing the people, hearing the people, letting them know that we see them and that we, too, need to be seen. It’s about being present, and getting lost in the ordinary moments and simply letting the story—your story, my story—unfold. But I think what’s even more, is that it’s about knowing and accepting that I can’t stop the story from unfolding. It’s going to happen. I’ve got to hold loosely to what my future version of myself looks like, because it might not turn out that way. I’ve got to let go of my kids. They’ll always be my kids, but I’ve got to let them live and feel and experience and learn, and I’ve got to be willing to let them do it all on their own when it’s the right time. That very thought tightens my chest. It’s the slippage of time and the lack of control that really scares me. This movie vocalized and brought to life one of my biggest fears—that when my kids grow up and go off on their own, when “mom” is not a moment to moment reality for me anymore, that I won’t know who I am anymore. Strip that role from me, and I feel naked, useless, lost. Yet if I throw myself into defining who I am as someone other than mom in an effort to avoid that, won’t I miss a lot of what’s happening now? It’s complicated and messy, but instead of denying and numbing and not really talking, I’ve got to be willing to get my hands dirty. To look like an idiot. To make mistakes. To be open to being wrong about it all. Because on the other side of all the hard, there has to be some beauty. So yield. Let it breathe. Let it ride, let the tears fall and let the heart ache, without always knowing why. Let all the good and hard and pain and sadness and laughter, happen.
In one of the last scenes, one of the best scenes, Patricia Arquette says, “You know what I realized? My life is just gonna go, just like that. These series of milestones: getting married, having kids, getting divorced! That time we thought you were dyslexic, when I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced, again. Getting my masters degree, finally getting the job I wanted, sending Samantha off to college, sending you off to college! You know what’s next? My fucking funeral! I just…thought there would be more.”
It sounds so tragic, and it is. It really is. It’s painful and it’s hard to live—to allow yourself to feel fully and be confused and vulnerable and work through the muck. I find myself asking “what’s the point?” more often than not. I also thought there would be more. More time, more of the big moments as if set to an idyllic soundtrack. But real life is actually driving down the road, singing happy birthday, signing permission slips, making turkey sandwiches, telling (yelling) to the kids to get dressed NOW—all the in between moments. For a society that values uniqueness so highly, it’s ironic that there is something so powerful in knowing that what we are doing and feeling and living is what most everyone else is experiencing. And I think the reason is that there is solace in knowing that we are not alone.
“Hero” is one of the last songs in the film, it’s melancholy and graceful and it reminds me to feel. I’ve got it on repeat as I try to empty my heart, which feels instead like a purse of coins in the cavity of my chest. But what I keep coming back to is this: I so badly want to get it right and I so badly want to be apart of something that matters, something big. But I can’t force it. I can’t force the story and I can’t force every moment to be spent in awe of the beauty that everyday life really is. It’s an unrealistic expectation. But I can be open. I can be open so that when the story unfolds, grabs me—I’m ready.