In the end, we are story as much as we are anything.
This is one reason why it works so well, this movie, Boyhood, which follows in real time filming the life of a boy who, over the span of a dozen or so years, grows up.
It’s a remarkable movie-making twist — thank you Richard Linklater — as all the actors literally age on the screen in front of you. The final fade to black comes with the credits rolling when the boy is 18. We leave him as he’s just starting college.
Like any good story, this is not an easy one, even for the everyday dull routine of this boy’s life: the chore of school, a sister who’s a predictable pain, and then mom and dad, who can’t keep it together from the get-go.
Mom’s desperate choices lead to a parade of drunks for pose as fathers while she tries to figure it out and make a better life for herself and her two children.
And then that’s it. Before you know it, there he is, the boy – after his own string of young life experiences and in the web of his own relationships – on the cusp of manhood.
“I always thought there would be more,” mom tells him at one point when she’s faced with her own mortality. Don’t we all. As some writer once said “Nothing happens. And everything happens.”
When he turns 15, there is a certain scene. The boy is given a Bible by an old couple, the parents of his dad’s new wife. It’s at the old couple’s farm. Everyone is there: the boy’s mom, his sister, his dad, his dad’s new wife, the old couple. Outside the house is space. And water. And peace.
There’s a quant smile from the teenager boy. You know the Bible is not the first thing he’ll get to when he gets home.
But the truth is that through all the family brokenness, there is still a strange togetherness. And, in truth, the boy’s real dad has changed over the years, in part at least because of the stabilizing influence of his new wife, who grew up on that farm, that place of refuge in the presence and influence of her believing parents.
So the boy’s dad is the benefactor. And then, yes, throughout this story, this strange togetherness in brokenness – my Bride even commented on it afterwards during our post-movie meal.
No, the boy’s real dad is never perfect. But somehow through the various turns he’s able to maintain a presence in his children’s lives from beginning to end.
In many a boy’s life these days, you can’t ask for much more.