Boyhood – a wonder to behold

The antithesis to any other coming of age film I have seen – gently depicting progress rather than the popular hollywood POW. The life altering moment, during which the boy suddenly becomes a man, is absent, and this remarkable work is all the better for it. Director – Richard Linklater’s modesty and reluctance to hyperbolise or over emphasise has enabled him to create a film which is artful, charming and a genuine pleasure to watch.

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is a daydreamer, a realist and a cynic. He is a person whose character is not easily categorised – he is complex and continuously changing. We watch him slowly evolve over thirteen years, never ceasing to be confused or uncertain. In portraying such a protagonist, Linklater conveys the intricacies of life while resisting the temptation to offer even a glimmer of the artificiality so prevalent within film today. There is no culmination, no sudden breakthrough or defining moment. But rather, a gradual transition – an ever changing state of being. And as the child grows, changes, moves, the film moves with him – each character ageing, drifting, living. Not necessarily advancing or improving, just moving through life.

There are small wonders and small disasters – nothing is overstated or overworked. A degree of fatalism is perhaps insinuated, as Mason is subject to a string of drunken stepfathers, house moves and people wandering in and out of his life. But no more than a hint. He makes choices. Not those which are huge, life changing, or earth shattering. But small, everyday decisions – which may, or may not have a butterfly effect – whether to drink a beer, whether to obey rules or rebel, which college to choose. Each which softly ushers him forward, rather than overtly propelling him into any kind of abyss.

The films complexity lies within its simplicity. In truth, childhood is an abstract thing. Not linear, but progressive. Societally implemented, supposedly definitive stages – birthdays, graduations, the first beer, the first sex – which, popular film would have us believe, once met are meant to propel a person to the next significant phase, do not suddenly make a boy a man. Life is a continual series of events – of relevant and irrelevant moments, which seep into one another. Each character – from the small boy staring up at the sky at the films open, to his father – who in the latter half, we see descend into the very being he spent the former half of the film rallying against – is in his or her own state of respective boyhood – still learning, still growing, still falling. The often poor adult decision making within the film, lacks clarity, cohesion and sense just as choices do within childhood. We see, not just the boy age and grow, but his parents, his friends.  Many of whom are present in one part and absent the next. Because, as in reality, people wander in and out of one another’s lives without having profound effect or significant meaning. When they are here, they are here, and when they are gone, they are gone. – And it is the protagonist’s prerogative to develop and to take or leave, from each situation and from each person, what he chooses.

I am thankful that there is no real resolution. The film ends as it begins – with a young man staring into the sky –  inhabiting the moment in which he exists, not searching for a deeper understanding than that. And, as is surmised at the films finale – we don’t seize the moment, not really. The moment seizes us, and then it is gone. But another always follows. Seeing that, even in the most defining, climactic instant, we still wait for the next. This film succeeds in its portrayal that there is the past, and there is the future, but the the only thing of which we can be certain, which is truly real, is the now.

I urge you to watch this film, if not for its thought provoking and profound simplicity, then for its artistry and sheer charm. Thirteen years have been well spent in the creation of Boyhood. It is a truly wonderful watch. 

Graduation Trepidation

Watershed moments are happening to terrified 20-somethings the country over as I write this post. My older and wiser sister experienced her own just last week. – No longer is she just my big sister Becky, the girl that calls me ‘dweeb’ and lurks at the top of the stairs to jump out and make me cry. She is Rebecca Barratt MSc (Hons). It’s official. She is a grown up. From here on out she is responsible for her own welfare. In fact, as a new pharmacist she is responsible for a wide array of public welfare… Given that she once hospitalised me due to throwing a large pebble directly at my head – this is a scary notion… Okay, so she was about six at the time, but can she really have changed that much in 17 years?

Tomorrow, I too will don the cap and gown. I will shake hands with nobles I have never heard of. I will smile for the continuously clicking camera. I will endure and attempt to answer the ‘what now?’ inquisition over and over and over again – my carefully honed photo perfect grin steadily sinking into an unimpressed, severely stressed grimace – for fear that my inquisitor will see straight through what is in fact a piece of well-practiced fiction. Because unlike my superior and far more organised sister – who, despite being a reckless, pebble-chucking youth, seems to have turned her life around for good – complete with job, flat, real adult partner, savings account, fish tank, vegetables in the fridge which will actually be eaten as opposed to left to rot, a car with over 1/4 of a tank of petrol in it and a reasonably stable future ahead of her. I conversely, am a big question mark. Nobody is quite sure where I’ll end up. Before I finished uni I would frequently joke that I’d be the novelty, slightly eccentric relative living in a wigwam – but now that is far too likely to become a possibility to be laughed about.

I thought that  turning 21 meant official adulthood, but I was still safely ensconced in the bosom of education at the time – A soft bouncy bubble which is about to be abruptly popped – Graduation represents the end of the gradual transition into maturity. Adulthood has arrived at last. Where I once was dragged on to campus kicking and screaming, I am now likely to be forcibly removed for desperately attempting to cling on to the gates. We no longer circle the box marked student in the vain hope that we won’t have to pay for anything (worked 90% of the time). We are no longer exceptions to any societal rulings. We now circle the box marked ‘unemployed’ and must conform to the general consensus that it is unacceptable to eat pasta for breakfast or watch friends in our pyjamas until noon.

But despite my thematic lack of direction, I am determined that graduation is going to be a wonderful watershed. Because, just as my sister is no longer the six year old who threw a pebble at my head, I am no longer the student I was not quite so long a go. As our circumstances change, so must we. Evolve or die. No longer do I jump on the bed whilst listening to Ronan Keating each morning with the girls, spend entire days roaming around recklessly – searching for friends to distract from their work, or spend my nights pulling perplexing shapes on the union dancefloor. However, I’m well aware that fun loving girls must remain to be so – especially in the face of adversity – so I’m clinging on to my high spirits, my optimism, exuberance and even the occasional slip of silliness – I’ll just apply them to life in a slightly more creative, dare I say maturer manner.

A congratulations is certainly in order – to Rebecca – my incredibly intelligent sister who, at the tender age of 23, seems to have it figured out. But to the rest of us – the stragglers, the dawdlers and the daydreamers – those who aren’t quite there yet, we mustn’t neglect to congratulate ourselves either. Because, despite our, at times, indignant objections, we have adapted, we have changed, and on Wednesday, the cord will finally be cut for good. And although I doubt I’ll ever feel truly ready to propel myself into the elusive adult world – I’m going to give it a jolly good go. If I hit a wall now it might hurt slightly more than bouncing from the side of the university bubble, but I’ll just redirect and try again. Real life, for me at least, can’t be carefully calculated or drawn out on a map – it’s a series of consequences and coincidences, of blunders and wonders – all of which have thus far bought me here – to the status of (nearly) graduate. And what a fantastic place to be. If my terrible navigation has delivered me this far, then I’m incredibly excited to see where it could take me in the next three years. So hello maturity – we meet at last. Now let’s go and explore the unknown.

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Becky Barratt – MSc (Hons)