Review: Boyhood

98% Fresh from critics on, 8.2 on, winner of one Academy award and nominated for five others including Best Picture and Directing, and winner of two BAFTAs and three Golden Globes. Yes, the sting for this opening paragraph is that I didn’t care forBoyhood.

Progressively filmed over twelve years and edited down to a one hundred and sixty five minute story, Boyhood‘s actors visibly age over a decade as we follow Mason through the awkward years of youth and watch his parents struggle with their own lives.

It is a real shame there is nothing of substance here, making it the longest three hours I’ve ever experienced from a movie (since perhaps Barry Lyndon or The Assassination of Jesse James etc)
It is a fascinating thing to watch actors actually grow up, and how you almost take it for granted as it happens until it ends and you look at the poster again. “Oh hey”, you say, “he started out like a little kid! That’s neat.” That’s its gimmick, and it is an interesting idea for sure, and I give it kudos for that.

But there’s so little character development, paradoxically for a film all about development. I was waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen, something untoward or terrible to really shake up the story. But no, as if trapped by their own genius the film-makers just keep the pace plodding along as we watch a boy not really do anything and grow up to not really do anything.
The inspirational heart, what some describe as “epic” in this story is how it captures modern day living. Sure, a film about people never aspiring to anything, or people washing out, or people ignoring what’s good for them sure feels like a reality check if nothing else but unfortunately I already live in the real world where these things can come in abundance. I don’t need a film telling me what I already know, and I certainly don’t need one saying these things are normal and part of the course.
Apart from its gimmick, that’s exactly what it is: uninspiring. This could have been uplifting, or shocking, or a story to enliven people.

But to me it dragged itself through some of the most soap opera grind clichés available. A full hour into the film Mason, the boy of the title, goes to High School. I don’t know if I felt relieved or depressed that finally High School stereotypes like bullies and tried and tested teenage macho-man talk can begin.

The only conflict comes early, as Mason’s mother leaves his struggling father for another man, a man who turns out to be an abusive drunk. Eventually they leave and set up in another couple’s home… only for that husband to turn into an angry drunk too!
It seems like most men are jerks.

I’m afraid Boyhood was more like Borehood for me. It has a great premise and Ethan Hawke actually proves to be the best part as the rather goofy but wholesome father who tries to raise his kids from a distance, but it lacked drive and any real gravitas outside of its own technical ideas, instead was chock-full of clichés.

Additional Marshmallows: Also Boyhood‘s revolutionary gimmick? I think the Harry Potter films technically did it first?

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