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Boyhood: Perception & Reality of A Happy Family

By Shishya Ray

Written, directed and produced by Richard Linklater, ‘Boyhood’ is his most critically acclaimed piece of work that was released in the year 2014. The movie follows the life of a six-year-old kid Mason Evans Jr, and his family that consists of an elder sister Samantha Evans and divorced parents Olivia and Mason Evans Sr. The story follows the life of a child from the first grade till he is meant to leave for college.

This movie is an anomaly, and is genuinely one of a kind because of the way Linklater intended on making it. He was extremely keen and desperate to make a movie on the life of a boy through his childhood phase, and how over time he grows up and becomes the adult that the rest of the world sees him as. Linklater, therefore, set out to make a film that did not have a complete script and whose production was spread over the course of 12 years (from 2003-2014) with the same cast of actors, so that they could all work and make a piece of art as one big family in itself. He had originally planned on making four short films, and he made sure each script for half a segment of production was written with the help of his actors and their everyday struggle in their real life. He often used Ethan Coltrane's (Mason Jr) real life incidents as groundwork for the script.

The movie however ended up being much more than just the life of a young kid, as it became an epic that so well happened to define and call out various flaws in a way that presided in the American Culture. It was like a step towards improving our culture here in India that had been going on for ages altogether. Having children at a young age and being immature is often a pandemic that has plagued the American Society, which the children of the house happen to face the brunt of. This is because they are constantly fighting over trying to gain the love of either their mother or father, or sometimes both. But here, Linklater makes the conscious effort to give the upper hand to the mother, because it is her who happens to be the more mature individual in the couple's relationship. We clearly see the struggle she goes through in her own life to even find time to go out on a date without finding a baby sitter for her children. A mother who has to shift in with her own mother to learn and educate herself, as she becomes a teacher to provide her children with the livelihood that they deserve. All this, when the father is out whiling away his time trying to successfully become a musician. She then becomes the villain in their everyday life, disciplining them as he only comes and takes them out for bowling and eating food twice a week to become the fun parent. We see her juggle her everyday life trying to find love, even succeeds in finding it twice, but both result in being unsuccessful (another calling out of an American phenomena of multiple unsuccessful marriages).

We get a deep dive into how High-School kids get a taste of marijuana and alcohol early on in their lives, and how many at times it leads to the other way. But not with Mason, because his mother made sure they learnt from the mistakes she made, even when she ended up marrying a man who had alcohol related problems in his life, that led to domestic violence. We get a taste of how every child after a certain age, mostly 16, needs to get a job. Working at a diner, for instance, to get a feel of how they need to start fending for themselves, because no one in the world is going to be kind to them. This is something that the Indian culture lacks, which results in tons of kids being dependent on their parents for a vast majority of their life, and becoming burdens on them that eventually destroys their relationship. Maturity is also a major theme, as we see how the separated couple don’t really hate each other in their presence as they’ve learnt to think about the bigger picture at hand, the happiness of their kids.

What I feel the Indian Culture can take from this film, is the outcome of divorces. Here, we succumb to societal pressures of having to force a couple together for their kids, rather than thinking of their individual happiness. This leads to them destroying the good bits of their relationship and damaging themselves mentally and physically.

Thus, I feel Boyhood (through the lives of Mason Evans Jr and his family) wants us to find the perfect balance between personal and family happiness, and wants us to find our very own happy family rather than living the so-called perception of it.


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