“Boyhood” questions the rules of motherhood


via IFC Films / Mason (Ellar Coltrane), age 6, in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Courtesy of Matt Lankes.

Ethan Sapienza, Staff Writer

Shot over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater’s magnum opus “Boyhood” follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) through his schooling until he leaves for college. The film is about family as much as it is about watching Mason age, however. It is also about seeing how the family grows and interacts as time goes by — particularly with respect to Mason’s mother, Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette.

Olivia fails to fit into the role of the good cinematic mother. According to what has basically become film law, the good mother must express nothing but support for her children, adhering to a strict, selfless guideline. If a portrayal of motherhood ever differs, then the mother is obviously a poor character, nearly villainous in nature.

Instead, Olivia’s self-interested tendencies are a testament to her character’s humanity and add greater meaning to her sacrifice. When Mason decides he is too sick to go to school, his mother brings him to her class, yet does not refrain from flirting with her professor in front of him. Later on, as Mason is bound for college, she bemoans how this marks the final stage of her life, that the next stop is death. These moments depict Olivia as exactly who she is — not a pillar of exemplary parenting, but an authentic human being.

Her commitment to her children is honest and poignant. She forsakes much of her formative years to allow her children to have a good shot at being successful. Little thanks is given, yet she soldiers on, trying to be the best adult she can be without ever having had a chance to become one.

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