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Best of 2014: Staff Picks Boyhood

We’re almost at the end of 2014, and soon it will be time for you, our readers, to help select the year’s best in Movies, TV, Music, Books, Podcasts, and more. But before that happens, throughout December, our staff will be showcasing their own top picks in these categories.

Here Contributing Editor Lawrence VonHaelstrom chimes in with his with his top pick in Film: Richard Linklater’s ambitious Boyhood

On its release, Boyhood was met with near unanimous praise. Six months later, perhaps not accustomed to outbursts of sincerity, it seems we’ve collectively become a little embarrassed by our exuberance. That shouldn’t be necessary. Boyhood is a singular, beautiful achievement that will long stand as a classic.

Boyhood assumes a strict set of rules and pulls out deep, rich meaning from its form. Time will progress linearly, the narrative will not follow a traditional arc, the actors will manifestly age. The beginnings of a traditional storylines may appear, but the film’s rules pull us past them. The rules themselves become the film’s momentum. When Mason enters middle school, he encounters some bullies in the bathroom. We want to follow this standard trope to its expected conclusion, instead the film carries us on to the next captured moment. The film’s current moves forward while our narrative expectations bear us back ceaselessly into the past.

With this sort of momentum there is no natural resting place for the film to end. Any moment could have been its end—high school graduation, Mason and his father at the bar listening to the old roommate’s band. There is no place for expected resolution, so the film ends not at a narrative beat, but at a philosophical one. Within the film’s story, Mason is still, for all intents and purposes, a selfish kid—stoned and looking at a sunset. But for us, the viewer, it is an unexpected but perfect beat of resolution. A moment to pull together all of our thoughts and emotions about time, love, aging, the power of film. It’s an absolutely beautiful, brilliant moment for us, and one that can be created only by cinema.

Top image © IFC Films. 

Lawrence von Haelstrom is actually not a former bull roping champion. He does have a BA in Creative Writing from George Mason University.