“Boyhood” teaches lessons about adulthood


By Camron Owens

With awards season upon us, we are once again bombarded with a slew of movies featuring actors portraying real life figures and situations. From Eddie Redmayne’s incredible performance as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” to the heart-wrenching scenes of 1960s Alabama in “Selma,” these movies seek to give audiences entertainment and a history lesson. 

One of the Academy Award nominated films, “Boyhood,” takes a different approach to depicting a real life situation. “Boyhood” seeks to evoke the experience of growing up as viewers follow a character named Mason from age seven until he leaves for college. It’s not a film with an enticing plot, special effects or an abundance of big stars; however, I believe it’s a film that everyone currently going through the early stages of adulthood should see.

What separates “Boyhood” from other coming-of-age films is that director Richard Linklater made the film over a span of 12 years using the same actors. Audiences are able to see Mason and his family age in real time. 

Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, is now 20 years old, making many of us relatively the same age as Mason over the film’s time period. What I found while watching “Boyhood” was not that it was reminiscent of my childhood or the childhood of anyone I know, but that the film realistically portrayed a childhood that many people my age could have experienced.

Mason goes through a series of tumultuous relationships with father figures and has an ever-changing circle of friends as he moves to different cities. However, even if these situations don’t seem exactly relatable, that doesn’t mean “Boyhood” fails at depicting an accurate picture of adolescence. 

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What makes “Boyhood” so prevalent to people my age is the fact that the world of Mason’s childhood is the same one that we grew up in. The same events that were prominent when I was growing up also play a role in Mason’s life. Just as period piece films seem to define the 1970s with disco and “Star Wars,” “Boyhood” reminds us of the events that defined many of our adolescences. 

From discussion of the war in Iraq to the election of President Obama, the cultural events taking place in Mason’s childhood took place in many of ours. It’s a callback to historic periods that feature cultural landmarks like “Toy Story,” Motorola Razr phones and “Crank That (Soulja Boy).”

As I watched the movie, I saw someone roughly the same age as me experiencing many of the same cultural phenomena that I experienced. Mason goes to the midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” plays Game Boy Advance SP and watches Will Ferrell’s “The Landlord” on Funny or Die just like my friends and I did. 

The character feels like someone I could have grown up with or gone to school with. This message, that there are universal aspects of our childhoods despite the obvious differences, is an important reason why I believe this film is eye-opening to my generation.

While “Boyhood” defines prevalent aspects of my generation’s adolescence, it also is able to define the childhood of all generations. “Boyhood” shows us that despite how different our cultural upbringings are, certain aspects are universal. Mason finds and loses love and faces peer pressure, which, in turn, help him discover who he is.

While many of us may not have experienced the same turmoil and situations that Mason experiences, we can probably all remember experiencing disappointment, fear and heartbreak growing up. As we see these events play out onscreen, we are reminded that pain can be nostalgic too. Adolescence can be a messy journey of self-discovery.

However, the film also reminds us that no matter what our childhoods are, we always have the opportunity to start anew in adulthood. For Mason, it’s going to college and meeting new people, a situation that most of us at the University can probably relate to. 

I encourage everyone my age to watch the film because even though it doesn’t feature Ninja Turtles or a talking raccoon, it tells the story of our generation. Despite what researchers may conclude or debate about the accuracy of the events depicted in films like “Selma” or “The Imitation Game,” “Boyhood” remains an accurate depiction of growing up and seeking change. It’s a reminder that many of us have experienced pain in the past, but there’s no reason to let it deter our futures. 

Camron is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].