In mid-2002, production began on Richard Linklater’s screenplay, then untitled, in his hometown of Houston, Texas. The coming of age story revolves around a boy as he grew up within a tumultuous household between the ages of 6 and 18. From the multiple-plots-in-one concept to the expansive amount of time spent on filming, everything about Boyhood is unconventional, taking on risks within film production that no one has ever dared to take before. The Academy Award nominated film is smart, full of heart, and will forever change the game of film making. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Linklater’s Boyhood is the expanse of time it took to film. From 2002 to 2013, the movie was filmed for a few weeks at a time each year. Being contracted to a film for this long had its obvious risks – actors losing interest in the film, producers and anyone else connected to the film falling to the wayside, production companies revoking the budget. However, there was something about this particular project that kept any of these things from happening (although midway through filming, Linklater’s daughter, who held a significant role in the film, jokingly proposed that her character be killed off).
The decision to use the same cast over a production span of twelve years was arrived at through careful consideration. Many films that take place over an expanse of time default to simply recasting the roles of the characters to showcase the different ages of the characters, or with simply the magic of movie making, age the actors with makeup. In Boyhood, with each year, the viewer can spot subtle differences as each actor naturally ages over the years. These differences could especially be easily spotted in the younger actors, as they were tied with the film from the early age of 6 to 18. As Richard Linklater himself put it, he chose to accentuate those particular ages (grades 1 through 12), because those are the most primitive and life-defining years of anyone’s life. As with the characters of the film, the actors themselves were going through similar things, and these experiences were translated onto the screen, moment by moment, year by year.
As for the actual story, the screenplay takes on many different plot lines and highlights the bigger events that occur in the characters’ lives. The story saw the main character’s mother take a few trips down the aisle, before being met by each subsequent divorce. Mason, the focus of the story, underwent the same pressures that children go through during their lifetime – feeling the need to fit in with a certain crowd, finding their niche in society, before figuring out who they want to be as a young adult. Mason’s father saw a life of inhibitions before accepting a life of adulthood and responsibilities. Characters came and went, as with those people we often encounter in our own lives.
Even though the story is ultimately about the different stages and milestones of growing up, the film never defaults to highlighting the stereotypical “firsts” that one accomplishes during their lifetime. There was never a “first date” or “first breakup” scene, followed by a “first heartfelt conversation with your parent that makes you realize they’re an actual person, too” scene- the story line picks up in random and sporadic places in each of the characters’ lives, steering clear away from the usual coming-of-age drama formula, giving the film a relatable spirit. The soul of the film parallels with the notion that when we look back at our own lives, we don’t remember events in direct sequence with one another. Rather, memories come in spurts, and things are remembered one event at a time, depending on how significant they are. With each memory comes a string of characters of people that have walked in and out of our lives – some may stay and others go, and Boyhood does an exceptional job portraying this fact of life.
Overall, Boyhood gives an accurate depiction of how we live our lives and how we remember our past experiences. The viewer is instantly drawn into the story, and can pinpoint events in the film and relate it with their own lives. The story gives off a strong feeling of nostalgia as each year of the story is visited and left behind. We are reminded of our own lives and experiences, and are inclined to draw parallels between events that happened to us and the events that happened to each character. Boyhood is two and a half hours of sentiment, heart, and soul that you will want to rewatch over and over again.