Why every parent should watch Boyhood

Last nights Oscars saw ‘Birdman’ win four awards, including, Best Picture and Best Cinematography, making a disappointing night for Richard Linklaters Boyhood. I haven’t actually seen ‘Birdman’ as yet, so can’t comment on the film, but reading the synopsis, I know that it won’t be one I can relate to or that will stick with me like Boyhood has and probably will for years to come.
For anyone who doesn’t yet know, Boyhood is an American coming-of-age drama film, which was shot intermittently over the course of 12 years. The film starts in 2002, and concludes in 2013, and depicts the adolescence of a young boy growing up with divorced parents.
We see not only Mason (Ellar Coltrane) evolve from a cute little six-year-old, into a handsome young man, we see events unfold over the 12 years that wouldn’t normally be movie worthy, but it works and the reason it works is because we can relate to them.There is no hugely dramatic, thrilling or gripping story line, no speedy car chases, or startling special effects, no deeply saddening tear jerking moments, but you will be gripped and you will cry.
At the start of the film I thought about what I was doing in 2002. August 2002, my son was 3 and I’d become a single parent just 4 months earlier. It was also the year he started nursery, a hugely memorable milestone for any parent.
We then see 12 years pass by in just under three hours. We see transitions of hairstyles, fashion, and politics. We see Gameboys, and Wii Sports and the attendance of a midnight release of ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’. As each year passes in the film, I found myself thinking back to that time in my life.  Remembering my son at that age. Hoping like Masons mum, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), I was doing my best.
One thing which I’ve struggled with as my son became a teenager, is conversation. Any question I ask is met with little more that a one word answer. There is a scene in the film where Mason Snr (Ethan Hawke) voices his frustration over the lack of feedback as he asks his two children what they’ve been upto since her last saw them. What we are seeing is the harsh reality that generally, teens just do not want to talk to us parents much, or divulge more than they feel necessary. As a teenager, ‘How was school today’, no longer warrants the reply of what they learned, or what they had for lunch, or who they walked home with. A simple ‘fine’ sums it up and I now accept that that’s okay.
As Mason celebrated his 15th birthday, I found myself become more emotional involved in the film. I’ve just watched a boy grow up on-screen, and replayed my sons 15 years in my mind, now it’s like a glimpse into the future. Boyhood may be about a fictional family, but the phases of life depicts reality. What can I expect to happen in the next three years, before my son is an adult and no longer depends on, or maybe even needs me?
My son has just started going out with friends, and coming home at around 10. But luckily, it’s just to football matches, no partys – yet. But I now know and fully accept that there is time where he will come home after having a few drinks, and I will be mad, not only because of the drinking, but because he will be out later that he is allowed, and I will probably be worried sick, but that’s ok, it’s a milestone. Not quite as welcomed as the day he took his first steps, or his first day at school, but a milestone non the less, but something I now accept will happen. I often worry that he doesn’t know where he wants to go in life, what he wants to do, what he inspires to be. But that doesn’t matter either, because I’m confident one day he will. Maybe he even does, and that’s just something else he doesn’t wish to share.
As I type this, my son is sat in his Maths mock GCSE exam, with the rest to follow over the course of this week, sitting the real things in May. Then he plans to go into sixth form. I now realise that I may only have only three years left with my son at home before he decides to go off to university. University isn’t something I’ve encouraged or discussed with him just yet. I’m put off by all the student debt and lack of job opportunities for new graduates. But I want all my children to live life to the full, and experience everything life has to offer. It’s not solely about education, it’s about spreading wings, making friends, and having fun, and I’ll make sure he knows and understands that.
It’s now a week since I watched Boyhood, and I still find myself thinking about it. I now find that every time I feel frustrated with my girls as they fight over the same toy they refuse to share, or interrupt every time I try to speak to my husband, or cannot get my three-year old daughter to remove her Frozen Jewellery for bed, I need to treasure these moments. They aren’t difficult or challenging times, they’re moments I will never get to experience again.

1 Comment

  1. February 23, 2015 / 8:39 pm

    I’m going to give Boyhood another try (we got a screener), but I fear this is one I can’t get to a proper appreciation of. It’s very authentic, but I just wasn’t able to get past the “nothing happens except real life” quality of the film. I really, really needed more of a plot, an unlikely set of events if you prefer. I’m a huge supporter of independent film, and challenging traditional styles, but I haven’t raised a child so maybe I don’t have enough common experience to connect. I couldn’t finish the film in three attempts.

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