I’ve been wanting to write about both Boyhood and indie flicks for a long time. Since I started blogging, to be quite honest. I kept putting it off because I’m scared of writing reviews on things I love and I’m petrified of failing to meet my own expectations. If I’m excited to blog about something, I expect it to be spectacular (to me, at least). And way too frequently, it’s just not. Anyhow, I’ve decided to just fuck it tonight because it’s so late and I so can’t sleep. I need NyQuil.
So many people hated Boyhood because “nothing happens” and the acting is poor. The first part is technically false but visually true; the second part is 96.9% false. You see, if you’re watching a completed three-hour film obviously something must have happened. A cat farting is something happening. Two people talking about the color of fart is something happening. A boy growing older is something happening. So people claiming “nothing happened” should really just look up the definitions of “things” and “happen” before they open their stupid mouths. Okay, that’s not really fair because the first time I watched it, I too thought, “Why am I so attached to a movie about a some boy going through puberty?” Visially, nothing much really happens at all. There’s no climax (lol), no plot twists, no drama. So yes, Boyhood isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster.
But drama does not consist exclusively of action and suspense and noise. It contains tension, emotion, and unexpected changes, none of which have to be coupled with violence or scandal. I think Hollywood blockbusters have trained us into believing that drama and subtlety are mutually exclusive. If your nails don’t dig into the seat rests and your jaws don’t land on the ground at least once, then that movie sucked because “nothing happened.” If you’re neither shocked nor confused nor euphoric nor devastated, then you’ve wasted 1/12 of a day of your life.
The magic of Boyhood is in its realism – its unfiltered, unflinching portrayal of a physical and emotional movement through time. Yes, “nothing happens,” but isn’t that the whole point? Nothing happens when we’re growing up. We just grow up. Literally. Our adolescent years aren’t defined by our first kiss, or the one time we got caught smoking weed, or even graduation. Those are the light posts that illuminate a plain, dark road. That road is our journey, and it’s defined by the mundane moments that we’ve taken granted – awkward silences during family meals, endless arguments about grades, PMSing, getting dressed for school, writing essays deep into the night, talking till dawn with your best friends. And all the laughter and all the tears – you can’t even remember what inspired them but you know they were everywhere during those unforgettable years.
Maybe you’re whipping your head left and right as you’re reading this. Maybe you’re thinking that the definition only covers the highlights, otherwise we’ll never be able to sum up anything succinctly. That’s probably true.
But listen to this: my adolescence is my first kiss, my first drink, my first run in with the cops, and my graduation.
Isn’t that ridiculous? Adolescence (I don’t know exactly when it starts or ends) covers a good decade of our lives. 1/8 of our entire lifespan if we’re lucky enough to die of old age. It should be a struggle to define such a significant period of our existence. Adolescence is a blurry mess of challenges, changes, resentment for parental control, anticipation for college and freedom, and longing for childhood innocence. It’s a plethora of paradoxes. And the only way you define a plethora of paradoxes is by making a three-hour epic over 12 short years. Good luck.
In the end, what I love most about Boyhood…and indie films in general, is that it makes you think twice about the mundane. Boring is a funny word because I don’t think it applies to anything. Calling something boring only confirms our own laziness. If something is complex, call it weird; if something is ordinary, call it dull. It’s so easy to do, and it masks our ignorance. This may be a horrible comparison, but I feel like indie films are the introverts of the film industry. Quirky, quiet, and overshadowed by its louder, more charismatic counterparts. We need indie films as well as introverts, because along with thinkers we need things to make us think.