Film Experience That Shouldn't Be Missed - BoyhoodMovie Review

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Boyhood

The film Boyhood made a big splash in the theatres around the United States. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. It was nominated for six Academy Awards (and won for Best Supporting Actress), and five Golden Globe Awards (and won for Best Motion Picture). It has generally received critical acclaim for numerous reasons, including the fact that many families could easily identify with the story and the characters. Families emerge and develop and change, it's the rule of life. Meanwhile, developmental elements and concepts that are linked to the theme, plot, and characters of this film will be presented in this paper, from the context of a counselor's approach and professionalism.

Delving into the developmental elements of the film

Mason is the six-year-old boy whose coming of age was catalogued and fully shown through a kind of time-lapse story-telling film. The film tells the story without a tight script, which is a dramatic departure from Hollywood's norm when it comes to films and plots.

Mason's mom (Olivia) is going to college at the beginning of the film, and the audience witnesses her changes and her evolution -- including her physical and cognitive development as an adult making key adjustments. She becomes a mother's mother when she is wistful and sentimental; it is clear at one point that Mason is going to leave the nest and head to college. "I thought there would be more," she said, referring to her experience as a real life mother, and hidden behind her statement is a classic situation where a family (especially a mom) is going to be missing a big piece of the domestic puzzle -- a child going off to college and now coming of age.

This plays well into the concept of "Adult attachment," because while the adults in this film are attached to Mason, he, too, is attached to them biologically, socially, and psychologically. When that attachment is stretched by one member of the tight family departing, there is an emotional price to pay.

The adult attachment that is also playing out in this 12-year story of a boy growing up relates to Mason's real father, his biological father (Mason Sr. ), who really doesn't have a sense of consistent autonomy with his son because Mason Sr. roars in and out of Mason's life. That said, as the film and time progress, Mason Sr. becomes more conscientious towards his responsibility vis-a-vis Mason. Mason Sr. is a likeable guy, and the implication is that he and Olivia broke up because perhaps they married too young or married for the wrong reasons. Their own physical and cognitive development -- from the beginning of their relationship -- is not available to the moviegoer but again, that lack of script, of context, allows the viewer to make his own judgments as to how and why the key people in the film got where they are.

The fact that there is a divorce and the biological father comes and goes is not atypical at all; in fact it is extremely normal in American family experiences. Mason is perceptive, and when he sees his mom flirting with the college professor, he is not terribly pleased and like all boys whose mom is getting involved with a man who is not the real father, he is just moving through the social network he will encounter over and over in his life.

Mason has of course developed his own self-concept, and the viewers see the struggles, the fun, and the mischief that a young boy typically goes through. Every boy has to experiment with things that aren't safe or aren't appropriate -- called risky behavior -- and Mason dips into alcohol and marijuana, as boys will do. Parties, girls, arguments, and some stressful moments, are all part of the interaction with one's social network -- and Mason clearly shows resilience when confronted with scenes and situations that are not always to his liking.

As to alcohol, Mason's stepfather, Bill, a college professor, has drinking problems and that is not a good way to help raise a child, especially given the fact that Bill has two children of his own and Bill is not an understanding, helpful stepfather in all instances. But there is an ample amount of love -- and while the children of a blended family do not always find it easy to adjust to one another, they engage in social development based on the situation they are placed in.

Going back to the very beginning of the film the viewer sees Mason lying in the grass and gazing intently into the sky. One of the strengths of director Richard Linklater is that he doesn't have to explain everything, or add lines. As was mentioned earlier in this paper, there is no obvious reciting of lines by the characters. So in this case, the viewer wonders, is Mason sad? Is Mason upset and can do nothing better than stare into space? Meanwhile Mason stares at a bird that has died -- what is he thinking about that bird? Is he wondering how it died -- and does he really care? The camera simple lets silence tell the story because that close-up of Mason's face is all that is needed in this instance.

Indeed, the magic of this film is that the moviegoer can deduce for himself, and make up his own mind as to what is happening in the heads of the characters.

Clearly though, the viewer is given a rare opportunity to view the physical and cognitive development in a boy on a path to young adulthood; he's not there yet, but he is on that path and being as much a typical American boy as he can possibly be without trying or without memorizing lines.

When the camera allows the moviegoer to enter into Mason's world as he first rides a bicycle, the viewer is witnessing Mason's temperament, a kid learning life course changes (kids go from walking and running to being propelled by bicycles, and that is a dramatic moment). Every kid learns to ride a bike but how precious it is for moviegoers to sneak a peek into a real life coming of age situation.

It is rather amazing that the successful development, the social development, the social identity and even the antisocial patterns that are presented slip by in just 165 minutes; that is 12 years in 165 minutes. Watching the film and the characters evolve, grow, change and adjust to their changes (in well over two hours) is in a way a radical experience because this film is so far from what movies usually present to the moviegoer. Time lapse family movies are rare, but in this case, the love, work, friendship and spiritual meaning presented is poignant and even remarkable because viewers are brought along through the lives of these people -- who are not acting per se, but who are actors on the big stage of life -- in particular, Mason.

And how sweet it is, later in Mason's social development when he and his biological father go swimming together, and the camera lets the public into that familial scene without interrupting the bonding of boy and father. A boy grows up, he adjusts to his new family dynamics, he dips into things he shouldn't, he interacts with his own child-themed social network, his father and his stepfather come into play in various scenes (not always pleasant, but life isn't always pleasant), and his mother is always there for him.

The adult attachment that means the most in millions of children's lives is the mother in the home; she is the one constant, the fiercely loyal advocate for a child's well being, and no matter how life pushes and pulls her, she is the strength and the apex of Mason's life. In this film things don't come easily for the mom in terms of supporting her daughter and her son financially.

And Mason's real father has this dream that the songs he writes will one day bring him a decent career; but the songs are not dependably commercial enough to have an artist sing them. It's a disappointment for Mason Sr. But it isn't like a screenwriter wrote a plot in which the absentee father wanted to be in the music business; it is a natural progression of a man who roars around in a muscle care and just doesn't seem mature enough, or have the physical and cognitive development, to fully grasp his responsibility vis-a-vis his two children and his wife.

Cognitive development of course doesn't just play out in a young man's life as he goes through grammar school, middle school and high school; some people never actually become cognitively viable, they remain child-like intellectually and psychologically. I'm not saying Mason Sr. doesn't achieve some obvious maturity, but he is in a way the quintessential absentee father who should take more responsibility and should have been a bigger player in his son's physical… [END OF PREVIEW]

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