Boyhood? Richard Linklater's intimate portrayal of 12 years in the life of an average Texas family is compelling viewing for anyone who is in the process of rearing a family. It explores the formative years of a boy called Mason, whilst taking in the lives of those around him including his divorced parents and sister Sam, played by Linklater's own daughter.
As it was filmed over 12 years in real life there are none of the unconvincing prosthetics or awkward jumps between different child and teen actors. Instead the real growing pains of the children involved are captured in all their celluloid glory. It shows the main character's growth from a cute six year old into a disaffected and pretentious teen without pulling any punches. In fact, Ellar Coltraine, who plays Mason, says he cringed as he watched himself literally grow up onscreen.
It is probably this realism that makes the film so compelling. At almost three hours long I was convinced I would be twitching in my seat long before the end, bored by a self indulgent director's inability to edit his own work. Instead I was riveted. Mason's family isn't that similar to mine, there were just two children instead of four, mum and dad were divorced and the family lives a peripatetic life of moves, new partners, siblings and schools, but some things are universal.
I got a not entirely pleasant insight into what young boys get up to when unsupervised. It appears that this revolves around sex and drink, with a few soft drugs thrown in for good measure. This is not particularly comfortable viewing for a mother of pre-teens, but I guess it lets me know what I am in for.
But scene after scene tugged at my heartstrings as I saw my future, or at least a version of it, played out in front of me. I watched as Mason pushed his mother away when she went to give him a goodbye kiss at his new school, as he was embarrassed by her pride in his graduation and most heart wrenching of all the scene where he leaves home for college. His sobbing mother declares it the worst day of her life, and I was crying along with her at just the thought of my boys leaving home.
It is a fascinating film that kept me captivated from beginning to end. But more than that it made me go home and stroke the baby soft skin of my five-year-old twins with a new found appreciation. It highlighted just how fast time goes with children. The parents compare notes at Mason's graduation party, incredulous that their kids had both left high school. I know that sensation well, where you feel as if just a moment ago you were cradling a baby and now you are making applications to secondary school for that same boy.
It is so easy to rush the business of being a parent. When you are under the daily cosh of school runs, washing, cooking, taxiing and nagging to do homework, tests and music practise, it doesn't feel like a magical time to be treasured. Instead you want to get through the day and into bed with a good book. At least I know that's how I feel, but this film did give me reason to pause.
It made me think about how I am missing the best bits, or at least failing to savour them as I spend so much time grumbling about how hard it is to rear small children. It's not that Boyhood sugar coats the early years. They are shown as the familiar chaotically harassed mess of pick ups, drop offs, arguments about school work and a juggling act of earning a living alongside bringing up children. But when viewed in sharp contrast to the adult years that leap upon us so fast, they take on an altogether more precious feel.
So Mr Linklater thank you for making me smile, cry and pass two and a bit hours in the company of your celluloid family, but more importantly for showing me that I should stop from time to time and relish my boys' boyhood, for it is a just a fleeting moment in a lifetime that passes all too quickly.