Boyhood or (the film that should have won best picture according to a youth pastor)

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Boyhood did not win much of anything yesterday. Although I feel Boyhood got snubbed, I did enjoy the other films. Honestly, I really did. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the films nominated for best picture this year. Seriously. The quality of movies we got to watch and enjoy was insane. These were beautiful films with superb acting, dynamic cinematography, and some genius direction. It was literally poetry on screen. For that I am grateful.

I liked Birdman. I adored the Grand Budapest Hotel. And I really, I mean REALLY, loved Whiplash. Michael Keaton and Ed Norton were phenomenal. Wes Anderson added yet another notch to his already monstrous belt of funny and artistically beautiful films. And then J.K. Simmons showed he is so much more than an insurance commercial star (“Not my tempo.” That still gives me chills.) But I can’t forget Boyhood, even if I try. The film has just stayed with me.

Boyhood was highly regarded as a front runner, but came up empty during Oscar Night. Some have argued the film itself wasn’t great–it was just about the gimmick, the schtick, to film something over the course of twelve years. If it didn’t have that element, then it would have been mediocre at best. In theory, I suppose, I agree. But perhaps the critics shouldn’t forget the visionary project it was and the sheer faith, and ballsy determination it took to undertake it. You can’t separate the process and the result. It all contributed to the film. And it was great.

As a person of faith and also as someone who works with young people, Boyhood taught us about faith and adolescents in a way I haven’t seen replicated in other films. It showed real life in a powerful and clear way. It reminded us that sometimes beauty is found in normalcy and those big ‘moments’ we so desperately crave, the ones that capture us, are around us constantly.

The truth is, there was no flash in Boyhood. The film didn’t end dramatically. No fireworks, no grand finale, no out-of-this-world dramatic performances, but it ended the way most of our stories end and I loved it for that. Sometimes we go to the movies to escape life. Other times we go to be reminded of the essence of life itself. Boyhood didn’t offer an escape, but forced us to live our lives now. And that was powerful.

Donald Miller once wrote he didn’t’ like Jazz music because Jazz music didn’t resolve. Then he realized life didn’t always resolve either, and he liked Jazz after that. Boyhood was like that for me. It showed us that growing up isn’t always about finding the right answers or arriving at some grand epiphany where every event, every loss, every victory, every pain is reconciled in some grandiose epic moral life lesson. Rather, Boyhood reminded us just because you reach a certain age or position in life, doesn’t guarantee you’re free from pain or scrutiny. And it doesn’t mean you’ve arrived.

Life is bitter and sweet; organized and yet chaotic; beautiful, but also tragic. Has there ever been a film to illustrate this as poignantly as Boyhood?

I’d like to teach the young people I work with about these themes. Following Jesus isn’t an adventure in perfecting your life or the lives of those around you. It isn’t a guarantee of safety or admittance into a stress free zone. It’s an adventure in following Jesus through the many contours and vicissitudes that life presents. Sometimes it’s easy to see God in it all; other times, however, it’s nearly impossible.

I want students to understand that God is with them in their pain. He understands that growing up is a beautiful, cherished experience that not everyone gets to enjoy… but he also knows the pain and inevitable heartbreak that accompany life on planet earth. Sadness and joy are inextricably linked dance partners on this side of paradise. Boyhood shouted that from the mountaintops. It gave us reality. But more importantly, it gave us some clarity.

Richard Linklater did something with Boyhood that will never be forgotten or replicated in quite the same way.

Boyhood may not be immortalized outside the Dolby Theater with other great picture winners.

And that’s okay.

It will live on in a different way.

Maybe for my next message I’ll just play the movie, and when it concludes stand up and say, “Amen.”

 

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