See It: Boyhood

boyhoodRED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today.

Today's RED Hearts, by Carey Dunne, 24, in Brooklyn, NY, talks about a film that may make your own life flash before your eyes.

After seeing Richard Linklater's latest movie, Boyhood, I kept wanting to talk about it, kept annoyingly asking people if they'd seen it -- and feeling almost personally offended if they had and didn't love it.

As you may have heard by now, in Boyhood, he filmed the same actors -- among them, Patricia Arquette as a struggling single mother and Ethan Hawke as a deadbeat musician dad -- for a few days each year over the course of 12 years. In 2002, Linklater cast Ellar Coltrane, then age six, as the protagonist, Mason. He cast his own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, as Mason’s older sister. To get to watch the growing up that happens between then and 2012 verges on miraculous.

The characters morph before our eyes: In Mason’s case, he’s a dreamy kindergartener lying on his front lawn playing with geckos then a shaggy-haired kid intimidated by his drunken, violent stepfather in the suburbs of Dallas. Soon, as a crack-voiced adolescent in the cringey siege of puberty, he’s watching the outbreak of the Iraq War on TV. Then he’s angstily experimenting with blue nail polish, girlfriends and weed, and finally moving into his college dorm room.

This epic coming-of-age story channels all the wonder of time-lapse photography, except as applied to changing human lives instead of a sprouting plant or windblown clouds. Perhaps most astonishing, the large scale of it doesn’t come off as grandiose; the director doesn’t hit you over the head with its poignancy. Instead, he works in moments of real life and subtle humor.

For those born in the late 80s and early 90s, watching the film creates an eerie sense of seeing your own life flash before your eyes (although nothing compared to what it must have been like for Coltrane himself to watch). Your childhood had its own variation of lining up with the other wannabe wizards for the Harry Potter release. You remember those early candy-colored iMacs. You remember the battle of the Bush vs. Kerry lawn signs.

It all makes for an intense, highly personal sense of nostalgia. But it also creates a feeling of unity and connection with a generation -- arguably other generations, too -- that can be hard to come by. It’s not pride so much as a realization that collective memories of nationwide traumas and cultural events bind you, that your coming-of-age stories are often more similar than they might look on the surface. And they sure look amazing as they unfold on a movie screen. 

RED Hearts guest poster Carey Dunne is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.