Boyhood is not a movie. It is not a publicity stunt, or an experiment. It is a modern miracle told through the medium of cinema. It regurgitates a fable with strikingly genuine realism, which is as impossibly difficult as it seems on the surface. Or was, until the God of Dialogue (also called Richard Linklater by lesser beings) put His hand on it. I had, some years ago, sworn to my (teen) self never to idolize another human being to the point of worship. I admit my failure in that task with pride here. The finest filmmaker of our generation has forced me to surrender.
Linklater’s prodigious filmography already has Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Tape, A Scanner Darkly and School of Rock in it, among others. Somewhere in those years, he blesses us with three of the most romantic movies ever made. He calls those films his ‘Before’ Trilogy, prepping them up from 1995 (Sunrise), 2004 (Sunset) and through 2013 (Midnight): manufacturing an eighteen year time-capsule that seize the affections, strife, confusion, ambitions and flaws of two human beings in love with each other. He takes scores of incalculably complex emotions, gives them words, puts in two sublimely talented actors with each other in his frame, and slowly allows his narrative to breathe. The three stories put together unravel roughly up to five hours of our time. These five hours end up echoing ideas and fatally heartbreaking sentiments to keep us warm for a lifetime.
After that, he announces Boyhood. Heralding a new era of filmmaking, this sprawling, incurably ambitious epic was shot over 12 years. It captures the life of a boy called Mason from age 5 to 18. Filmed with the same cast for over more than a decade, this film ventured on to a front of cinema unexplored by mankind before. That said, it did not exactly guarantee another masterpiece; it could easily have been a boring, obsessive mess of an experiment. And what if, God forbid, it was all craft, but did not have the same beating heart that his films usually do? I gasped. I read the reviews. I waited. I watched. And the resultant experience wasn’t less than a profound spiritual transformation. Boyhood is a cinematic guidebook on everything about being human and being alive. It seals the viewer with something much more rewarding than a dramatic impact. It hits us with life: breathing, talking, loving, failing, growing life.
I’m not here to pick a bone with fellow film geeks who continue to believe that Nolan or Fincher is the greatest director of this generation. But Richard Linklater’s films have done much more than just make me laugh, cry or kneel down in acceptance, forgiveness and hope. They have saved my life. For someone who has watched at least two films per day for the last three years, the feeling of having had the definitive cinematic experience of the 21st century feels pretty special.