Boyhood

From 2006 until 2008—back before the ground fell out from below the feet of aspiring writers—I was making an actual living as a film critic, working for a paper in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I was the recipient, back then, of a lot of editorial red ink. In particular, my editor would frequently return drafts to me with special crossy-outty attention paid to phrases such as “I think” or “For me.” Next to the now eliminated phrases, I’d find cap-locked admonitions: “REDUNDANT. OF COURSE THIS IS WHAT YOU THINK: YOU’RE WRITING IT.”

And she was right. Sort of. I mean, this is what one would learn in any freshman composition class. Be concise, be confident, be objective; let the shit fall where it may.

But I’ve always felt such phrases—used judiciously, of course—do real work. They’re acknowledgements that the writer isn’t presenting some objective finding, but is, rather, bringing back a report from—in my case, one fucked up, depressive, severely limited guy’s—experience. And to me that feels more honest.

Anyways, this long preamble is really just a lead in to say this: I think Richard Linklater’s new film, Boyhood, which is playing at the Pageant Theater, is one of the most moving and incredibly profound films I’ve seen in years. For me, it’s an artistic masterpiece of the very highest order.

The basic concept of the film is that it follows a boy, from the age of six until he’s 18. But no make-up or Benjamin Button-y effects are used to age the actors. Instead, Linklater took 12 years to shoot the film, gathering them together once a year, for a few days at a time.

I hesitate to say much more because 1) I’ll start to gush superlatives—and I really don’t want to oversell it, and 2) (which is related) I think it’s best to go into a film as tabula rasa as possible. But, if you’re drawn toward deep realism and this sort of ambitiously longitudinal project, then I urge you in the strongest possible terms to see this film.

I’m particularly drawn to this type of art. My favorite book, in college, was Sentimental Education, which traces a young man’s life from 18 until his late 30s; my favorite contemporary short story writer is Alice Munro, whose stories often skate—almost magically—across vast swaths of her female protagonists’ life spans. And the deepest experience I’ve ever had watching a documentary was spending an entire weekend devouring Michael Apted’s 7-Up series, which returns every seven years to look in on the lives of a group of economically-diverse Brits, starting at the age of seven (in the last film, the subjects were 56). Apted’s 7-Up series is probably the project which most closely resembles Boyhood, except, perhaps, for Linklater’s own Before series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, which also star Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke, and which are also exceptional).

If you love/d any of these works, try some of the others I’ve mentioned. They help cross out the thoughts of the lonely “I”—not for anything objective, but for something universal and deeply human; something shared: quite simply, our lives as they unfold over time. Personally, I couldn’t survive without this kind of art.

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About Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff

View all posts by Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff
Former busboy, sauerkraut-mixer, and Japanese hair model, Emiliano Garcia-Sarnoff is a writer and father of two, living in Chico. After quitting a job as an Erin Brockovich-like legal investigator, then hitting rock bottom in a scene that involved roommates, tears, nudity and police officers, the UC Berkeley graduate decided to go for broke (and he’s accomplished his goal!) in the exciting world of small town weekly newspaper writing.