Boyhood is an outstanding piece of filmmaking. It was completed over 12 years, and 39 days in total of filming, and follows the life of a young boy, Mason, from age six to 18, and his family relationships.
We first meet Mason as a daydreaming six year old and this quality of somewhat ethereal detachment continues as he grows into an emotionally intelligent and creative young man. Although slightly introverted and obsessive, preferring life in the darkroom with his photos for company, he possesses a quiet confidence that draws others near him.
|Mason through the years...|
Mason’s father (Ethan Hawke) enters the film as a man-child with no fixed abode or employment, separated from his family and unable to be his children’s secure base. Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) appears to be stuck in a vicious cycle of toxic relationships, with the added painful irony that, despite being a lecturer in psychology, she seems quite unaware of her personal vulnerabilities.
The film has a wonderful natural quality, which is created through the authenticity of the characters and the continuity of the environment. The regular time lapses are unannounced, leaving the film’s narrative to flow unbroken. Through our investment in Mason and his family, the smaller moments of their lives become amplified, letting us into their worlds as fellow travellers.
As I sat through the film’s 164 minutes, I kept expecting a dramatic turn in events or some unexpected crisis to appear, but this never materialised. After recovering from my initial disappointment, I realised this film is about real life, where often the ordinary moments turn out to be the most significant. We have become used to dramatic intensity in films; Boyhoodmakes us appreciate patience and commitment instead.
|Mason and his dad- the early years|
I was impressed not only by the patience and commitment required to complete such a lengthy piece of work, but also by the faith that the separate days of filming would produce a cohesive final product.
There are powerful resonances here with the task of therapy, and the film reminded me of my experiences as a trainee therapist, of learning to recognise and stay with the unknown. Despite my initial fears, I have found that when I embrace the unknown, often with my faith in the therapeutic process as my only compass, then the therapy can truly flourish. Like Boyhood, it is when the fragments of a client’s life are pieced together that the bigger picture can be realised.