The length was somewhat understandable, however, when you consider that it took 12 years to make the movie, all in an attempt to chronicle the life of a boy from ages 6 to 18. It was fascinating to see the actors aging before your eyes.
The boy went through lots of family crises, including his parents’ divorce, abuse at the hands of a stepfather, the end of his mother’s second marriage and the tentativeness of a third. As a maturing teen, the boy falls in, and out of, love. A scene with his biological father – conversing over beers in the loft of a recording studio – was, for me, the most poignant.
“What’s the point?’’ asks the son. “Of what?” asks the father. “Of everything?” the boy responds.
In another scene, reflecting on all she had been through in unsuccessfully trying to form a lasting family, the boy’s mother remarks, “I just thought there would be more.”
Some would call this a chronicle of “the human condition.” We humans are often bewildered about the apparent emptiness of life, surprised that even pleasant events, things and even relationships don’t necessarily make us happy. We’re keenly aware that something is missing.
Sorry if this is predictable, but I can’t help thinking that it’s God that’s missing, that what is obvious is shunned for being obvious, traditional and “out-of-touch” with contemporary life. We’re deeply suspicious of what we may have learned from our parents and grandparents about the “meaning of life.” They were steeped, we may believe, in the myths of religion, blindly following traditions and prescripts of beliefs that society has now deemed irrelevant. We want, above all, to be relevant.
Popular culture promotes the idea that religion is obsolete. It may be OK for kids but not adults, who must be in complete control of their lives. Problem is, we’re never in complete control, even when we think we are. And society shoves religion aside not because it’s been “disproven,” or because it makes no sense or provides no benefits, but because it somehow “doesn’t fit” in modern society.
It appears that modern society is desperately trying to kill God so we can be “our own persons,” free from God’s tyranny, free to choose our own paths, to be “fulfilled” at last. And from a Christian point of view, we’re not just trying to kill the idea of God. We’re trying to kill God in each other – the children stuck on the border, the thousands killed in places like San Pedro Sula in Honduras, Ferguson, Mo., Detroit, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Palestine.
Yes, the fundamentalist and mega churches appear to be thriving, but people who attend don't seem to be like me or the people I know. They really do seem out-of-touch and closed-minded with their Christian music, Christian business directories and Christian dating services.
Popular songs have been expressing these sentiments for decades. In American Pie, that epic 1971 rock song that even today’s young adults seem to know, one famous line goes, “And the three men I admired most, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they took the first train to the coast…the day the music died.”
Like the movie, Boyhood, that song was also about delusion, the failure of the vision for young people of that era of what America could become. Somehow, God got implicated in that failure.
Seems to me we should apply a bit of “economics” to the problem and do a cost/benefit analysis of faith. Looking at it as objectively as possible, do the benefits of belief outweigh the costs, or vice versa? Would an investment in faith pay off, or simply add to the burden implicit in the recurring question about whether there’s a point to life?
Our reluctance to embrace God and/or religion may be partly a matter of “risk aversion.” Studies show that most people’s degree of displeasure over loss, and their eagerness to avoid it, is greater than their degree of pleasure over the same amount of gain. We’re pleased when we get a $1,000 tax return, for example, but disproportionately more despondent when the IRS informs us we owe $1,000.
This may be a factor in our reluctance to risk what we perceive as “the good life” for God and religion. The implicit point of the Boyhood scene, however, is that without God, life isn’t all that good. Maybe that’s why studies consistently show that religious people are happier than non-religious people.
And why wouldn’t they be? Faith provides meaning to life. It gives you something, or rather someone, to live for. It establishes a relationship that is dependable and loving, a reason to be fundamentally happy. It confirms that no matter what happens to you, someone is always there for you, who always listens. And it expands your family to every living person, even to every plant and animal.
I understand that the kinds of “what’s-it-all-about” questions asked in movies like Boyhood are lost on many people who are so entrenched in their work, their relationships and their stuff they don’t have time for thoughtfulness. About them, you’re tempted to ask, “Just who is out-of-touch?”