An Experience Worth Having

Too much of my time is dedicated to finding the next great independent movie. I scour rotten tomatoes for that hidden gem with high ratings but low box office success. I follow the moderately popular movie critic Leonard Maltin’s movie blog. I scan the Independent Film section on Netflix weekly.

A month ago while parsing through some of Rotten Tomatoes higher rated new movies, I noticed one called “Boyhood”. It had 100% approval at the time and here were some the critics’ comments:

“Wow.”

“A masterpiece.”

“One of the best coming-of-age movies of all time.”

I might have found that independent movie, I thought. I read several articles about “Boyhood”. I found out that the movie was about a boy’s life from the age of six to eighteen. I learned that the director, Richard Linklater, started filming 12 years ago and shot a scene once a month over the 12 years with the same actors.

I tried to find out when “Boyhood” would be playing in Grand Rapids, MI and found nothing. It was playing in a few theaters in California and that was it, so I had to wait.

A week later, I checked Rotten Tomatoes to see if “Boyhood” had more reviews. It did. Over 150 critics had reviewed it and of those only two critics said it wasn’t good, which is rare on Rotten Tomatoes with that many reviews. I tried again to find out when “Boyhood” would come to Grand Rapids and couldn’t find anything; however I read an article that said it was expanding and would soon be playing everywhere in the United States, so I checked the local theaters daily.

After a week of daily checks, “Boyhood” was playing Friday night in Grand Rapids. I told my friends that I was seeing it and they could come if they wanted but I was seeing it regardless.

They laughed at me and said they might.

I didn’t laugh because nothing was funny.

So it was Friday and my friend Tyler wanted to see “Boyhood” (he had done his own research and I think was as excited as I was). I was excited but also worried that my expectations were too high. I was disappointed with the last four academy award winning movies because I expected too much. I tried to stay cautiously optimistic but it was difficult because I had read too many reviews praising “Boyhood”.

Tyler and I arrived at the theater fifteen minutes before the start because I get ornery, if I miss the previews. I spend the usual $15 on a large popcorn and fountain drink, take a pre-game leak and head for Theater 10.

Three out of the four previews, cause me to tear up. I’m angry that my emotions have been manipulated. I take a swig of Diet Coke and a butter-coated handful of popcorn to calm down.

It works. I’m ready for the movie.

Every scene rings true but throughout the movie I find myself trying to evaluate Boyhood:

Is this a great movie? Am I enjoying it? Is it better than anything I’ve seen?

However by the time the movie ends, it all hits me. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t think it was great. I didn’t think it was bad. It was an experience. Not a typical “movie going” experience, but an experience. I saw myself in the boy’s childhood, even though it was vastly different. I saw my parents in the boy’s parents, even though they were nothing alike. I saw my friends, my girlfriends, my childhood, my struggles, my triumphs, my frustrations and much more, even though there were so many differences.

To me the sign of a great movie is something that draws you into another world for a couple of hours and then when it ends, you realize that the world painted on the big screen is the same one we live in and you are forced to reflect on your own.

That’s what Boyhood does for me and I won’t be forgetting it for a long time. It has affected me. It has changed the way I look at things. I have seen hundreds maybe thousands of movies and of those, I can think of one maybe two movies that are must-sees and I’m not even sure about those. They’re just movies anyway. And I’m not a director, actor or involved in the movie business, so really they don’t matter.

I don’t know if “Boyhood” is a must see for anyone else. But to me “Boyhood” captures the essence of the moment and how they are ever-present and ever-happening. It was a 2 hour and 45 minute reminder to stay in the moment and appreciate it. That is what Boyhood is to me. It was a 2 hour 45 minute moment to remind me of the moment.