Some Ramblings - Boyhood (2014) by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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Save for the ultra-rich for whom the question might not be pertinent nor would evoke any strong emotions, does one look back upon the growing years, particularly during the time when self-awareness kicks in at around 6 or 7 till that first step into adulthood at the end of the teenage years, with fear or fondness? The passage through that time equipped with little more than ignorance, anticipation and excitement might be a walk in the park, but only blindfolded. Not mature enough to realize the long term ramifications of actions and not wise enough to make those decisions whose fall out lasts for the entire life, enough to say that 'Boyhood' is a crapshoot, where every little thing - the force of the throw, the texture of the surface and even the ridges of the walls of the table - has a say in the final outcome. And this where the financial conditions tip the scales in one's favor (and therefore the reason why the ultra-rich are an exception to this generalization) offering the necessary crutches for 1.preventing one from falling down and losing his way altogether 2. offering the requisite assistance to quickly get back on one's feet and take remedial measures. Unfortunately that luxury is relegated to probably 5% of the population, generously speaking. And for the other 95% without the economic safety net, the stress of making ends meet causes a spillover on the family situation leading to a gradual dawning among the young and impressionable that not all is well with the world, begging for the the question to be repeated - does one look back upon his childhood in dearness or in dread. And this is all just with one factor, economy, at play pulling the strings. Add to that genetic, psychological and other medical (in)dispositions, societal and environmental influences, peer pressures, hormones, enticements, adjustment periods, pitfalls and a plethora of other variables tugging hard at one's life in different directions, it is indeed amazing that a majority of them make it to the other end in one piece, battle scars and other PTSD's notwithstanding. As against the conventional wisdom that death is an accident, it is the mere act of making it alive, the sheer game of survival that is in fact an accident.

'Boyhood' is a slice of life of a kid through the ages of 5 to 18. Though there are great number of movies that dealt with this troublesome, awkward, painful and yet utterly fascinating phase of one's life in many number of ways, what sets 'Boyhood' apart is a masterstroke of casting decision of having the same boy portray the entire 12 years on the screen, along with the other kid characters that grow up along side him, in a kind of a continuity marvel. This creative idea of following the fictional life of a boy through a period of 12 years, picking up the action at various important (st)ages all the way from a carefree child till the point of a thoughtful teenager, weathering various storms like his parents' divorce, stepfathers abusive and controlling behaviors, a struggling single mother trying to raise a family teetering between poverty and having just enough to keep the head above water, gives the movie an authentic documentary halo causing the audience to genuinely fear for how his life would turn up at the end of it all. 'Boyhood' doesn't have high moments of great triumphs, underscored stirringly by violins and cymbals, there is nothing here that can be classified as remotely 'exciting', as in the kid doesn't get drawn towards the shadier shadows of life nor has he any run-ins with the law, this is an exercise of excruciating ordinariness, there are crushes, heartbreaks, homeworks, acne, periods of rebellion, bad hair styles, summer jobs for saving up for college, glimmers of pure happiness punctuating trials, tribulations, vexations and frustrations. This is life at it unfolds. This is like sitting on the beach on a clear day and watching the sea for hours together, with the waves rising and crashing, falling down and climbing up again. Each event, each incident might seem random, but there's an underlying, unseen regularity pulsating underneath it all.

In that abstractness of the act of growing up, this is one of the most exciting movies of the year. And Richard Linklater's fascination of following the same characters at different stages of life comes a full circle here, after the very successful and poignant 'Before...' trilogy. In this case however he chooses a life that cannot yet verbalize completely what he is feeling and what he is going through (against his trademark of having his characters pour out their hearts in monologues and dialogs in unending takes) and lets the audience make up their own minds as to the intentions and motivations of the the kid who has literally grown up in front of their eyes. Two movies come to mind that portray similar unfolding of lives, one layer at a time, to great effect. One is the tamil movie, Cheran's 'Thavamai Thavamirunthu', which is about the life of a downtrodden father who faces all odds trying to raise his family of 2 kids from boyhoods to their own fatherhoods, and the other, the superlative documentary 'Hoop Dreams', about the struggle of 2 inner city kids from impoverished backgrounds who try to make it to the college through its basketball scholarship program. Characters/Movies are these hold a mirror to the audience imploring them to look at where they are from how/where they started off and realize how random, how accidental, how full of happy coincidences, the chance of a good life is, all the while surrounded by a minefield of ill-fate. And nothing more dangerous and edge of the seat than those growing up years that make up the 'Boyhood'. Genius!

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