Richard Linklater Dissects a Scene from ‘Boyhood’

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Boyhood-Minivan
Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Photo: IFC Films

When I published my 2014 top ten list a couple days ago, I had quite a few nice things to say about Boyhood, a passion project that ended up capturing a spot on the list as my #3 movie of the year. Of all that drew me into the film, perhaps the thing I love most about it is how writer-director Richard Linklater and his crew captured the everyday moments of the main character’s life, not necessarily the peaks or the valleys that would traditionally (on film anyways) define his childhood but rather the terrain in between that comprises the majority of his hike into adulthood.

One such moment in the film is when Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is riding in the car with his family, including his father (Ethan Hawke), on the way to celebrate his 15th birthday. Mason’s dad pulls up in a minivan, prompting Mason to ask what happened to the Pontiac GTO his dad was cruising around in for years — the one Mason says his dad promised would become his the following year on his 16th birthday, a promise Mason’s father has no memory of. Today, courtesy of The New York Times, Linklater narrates this scene as part of the Times‘ “Anatomy of a Scene” video series.

I would really love to sit down and chat with Linklater sometime, because through his films and several interviews he has given it seems he’s got a very interesting perspective on life, or at least an interesting way of expressing it. For instance, in the video from the Times, Linklater mentions how, “The only time you get in long conversations with your parents after a certain age is when you’re kind of held captive in their car.” It’s a generally unremarkable observation he makes, but this is something I can relate to: I was very close with my parents growing up, but when I was a teenager, the last thing I ever wanted to do was have long conversations with them.

Linklater goes on to talk about the idea of memory, which he is clearly very fond of. As it pertains to this scene specifically, Linklater states:

“It’s one of those mysteries of, did he really say it? Who’s misremembering? Are you intentionally forgetting? [Mason’s dad] has no memory of it, and it’s so clear to Mason. He can recall everything about it, the promise, and it’s one of those gray areas that I’m fascinated with, that we don’t know what’s true here. … It’s just the way people communicate and the way time passes, and things are misremembered. I’m kind of fascinated by memory and how imprecise it is.”

To go along with what I wrote about the film, about how Linklater chooses to leave out the milestones people use to define their lives and instead focuses on the seemingly insignificant events that string those milestones together, Linklater adds:

“So much of this film happens off-screen. Even the parents’ divorce, we never see. It’s just from the kid’s perspective. You just realize, oh, your parents are separated and you don’t know why. So [with] a lot of this film, you lack the absolute knowledge of what the reality is, but it’s very much in the perspective of a young person who just doesn’t know. So the whole movie is this kind of growing awareness of the world.”

This “growing awareness” Linklater touches on is something I, too, am fascinated by, how we begin to truly understand our humanity, our life situation, and the consequences of our actions as we mature and experience the world. When we’re young, we are largely dragged through the lives of our parents and so we deal with things only at the exact time they come to us, but as we grow we begin to take things into our own hands, to use our intellectual capacities, our physical abilities, and our own unique perspectives to tackle life head on. We grow aware of the things happening around us and we begin to branch out. Mason pursues one route, photography, while the rest of us my have chosen a different one, be it sports or business or engineering or what-have-you.

There are so many other things I could say about Boyhood, but I’ll stop with that before things get out of hand. Right now the film is in the thick of the Oscar race, and though it has lost a bit of traction after coming up empty with the Producers Guild and then losing to Birdman with the Screen Actors Guild, this is a race that is far from over. One thing is for sure though: the awards consideration the film has received thus far has kept the conversation about it going for far longer than I ever expected it to, so even if it winds up losing Best Picture, I can at least be thankful for that.

You can check out the Times‘ video below and feel free to discuss it or the film in the comments below.

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Weekend: Mar. 21, 2019, Mar. 24, 2019

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