Boyhood is a long film at 164 minutes. Nothing explodes. There's no villain, no superhero, no mystery to be solved. But it's compelling, enjoyable, heartbreaking, and, ultimately—well, I hate using the word, but it's inspiring. Leaving the theater, I felt like I needed to pay closer attention to my own life—to stop and just be.
So often at the movies, we see stories that teach us that only the remarkable moments are worth telling. Boyhood is an achievement in filmmaking, and it also does an important, countercultural thing: it reminds us that in the banal moments, the mundane relationships, the ugly rooms and the awkward phases—that is where we live out our lives.
Boyhood is rated R for reasons that will be familiar to anyone who had a typical American boyhood (or, potentially, girlhood): language, including sexual references, and teen drug and alcohol use. However, these are both highly realistic for the material, and far less graphic than things you can see in the typical multiplex in a PG-13 movie on any given weekend (or on network or cable TV).
In some scenes, teenage boys swear and make lewd comments about girls and look (briefly) at porn they found stashed in the house. Drug use is largely limited to pot-smoking, and it is tolerated, though not encouraged, as is the underage drinking. Children talk back to parents. Probably more worth mentioning, and perhaps more deserving of the MPAA's rating, is the actions of some of the adults; Mason's mother seems to pick men with problems, and one is an abusive alcoholic. Others are also unkind.
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She tweets @alissamarie.