Boyhood: 12 Years of Puberty, Personality, and Abuse

Intro by Maria

We’re gathered here today to talk about the 2014 film Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

The movie’s plot is simple: We follow the protagonist, Mason Jr., as he grows from a boy, age 6, to adulthood, age 18—over the span of 12 years. When I say over the span of 12 years, Linklater literally filmed the movie for a few weeks at a time each year for 12 years. This tactic may seem gimmicky, but as Brandon and I discuss, it works for this film to give it an unprecedented sense of realism and depth. Additionally, this tactic allows us to not only see Mason Jr. change and grow, but we see everyone around him grow as well, including his mother and father, who are divorced. 

There’s not much more to say about this movie in the introduction, but we have a lot to say during the episode, particularly in regards to the mental health section, where I ask the big question: How does childhood affect one’s personality? Brandon spends his time talking about the psychology of abuse and how that relates to power and control.

But before you listen to the audio, there are several items I’d like to address within the episode now that I’ve had time to reflect on some of the open questions we just happened to leave dangling. Let me de-brief you here, and let’s see if you can find where these belong in the episode.

So first, Linklater is indeed pronounced “link-layter”—I was just thinking of Art Linkletter, the host of People Are Funny, a gameshow from the mid-twentieth century.

Second, there is a character named Ted in this film, and it is Olivia’s professor husband.

And third, Samantha is definitely like the oldest or first child, because I forgot that she excels at school and almost everything she does.

Phew, well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we can move on. I hope you’ve brought your trapper keeper, your training bras, and the socks you used to cum inside and hide from your parents along for this ride, because you’re going to need them. We’re going to experience puberty as if we have never experienced it before on this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.

Show Summary


B: First time seeing this; didn’t see it when it first came out because was nervous about not liking it; “gimmick” of filming this over 12 years was done great; about a boy growing up and there’s so many directions it could have went; character-driven.  

M: Second time seeing this; picked this just to see again; Richard Linklater (director) told Ethan Hawke he would have to finish the movie if he died; risky to film this if anything happens to the cast, etc.; good at showing all the different characters growing and changing; script was days before shooting; nominated for many awards, but only won for supporting actress   

Idea Exchange

M: What would three Ben Stiller movies be if I was the star?

Current TitleMaria TitlePlot
Meet the ParentsMeet the Parents Who Love You Because You Tell Them Everything About Their ChildBecause I am disarmingly honest and communicate a ton, parents tend to love me because I tell them things that their children never would, particularly about their children. 
There’s Something About MaryThere’s Something Off-putting About MariaRather than being a story about Ben Stiller obsessing over a high-school prom date, this would be a story about Ben Stiller being uncomfortable with my honesty, since he obviously doesn’t practice this in the movie.
Night at the MuseumOne and Only Night at the MuseumIt would only be one, short visit, because I would immediately tell everyone and their mother, including news, about the exhibits coming alive at night.

B: Movie Mashup: Joan of Arc: Portrait of a Lady on Fire—Joan of Arc burning at the stake of five hours. 


M: The filming over 12 years worked; growth and change in all characters; literary ending that sums up the entire film and the film’s technique; emotional scenes, particularly with Olivia 

B: Film feels very real; drama is understated, but that’s the point; performances; initially I didn’t like some characters, but I actually starting liking them (Samantha, Mason Sr.); related to Mason Jr.; so many things this movie did right   


M: Sometimes got lost with time shifts

B: Pacing has no varied structure; frustrating to see Olivia end up with assholes over and over (not really a flaw)

Mental Health

M: How does childhood shape our personalities?

Birth order, emotional wounds, family climate, role models

Birth order

M: Baby

B: Oldest

Emotional Wounds

M: Not being heard

B: Not being heard

Family climate

M: Not divorced family

B: Divorced family

Role Models

M: Doesn’t want to be her parents

B: Doesn’t want to be his parents

B: Psychology of abuse—power, control; what is abuse?; Olivia’s trouble with abusive men; power imbalance


M: I really liked the literary ending. Maybe it’s cliche, but it sums up the entire experiment. It talks about how the moment seizes us, the present, having to be in the moment—the movie is itself being in the moment; it’s shot in real time. 

M: I like things that really get me to be emotional because sometimes I feel like I have the block up of being emotional, and I have to let myself be emotional because maybe, as I am now realizing because I have Borderline Personality Disorder, is that I have to put that up because if I don’t, I’m feeling so much all the time that it gets overwhelming for me. 

B: More than anything, I look at this film and more than any other film about family life and drama, this feels very real. It didn’t shy away from darkness and didn’t try to win you over with over-the-top drama.

B: There can be isolated instances of abusive behavior because the point of abusive behavior is control, power. It’s not necessarily a system, so there can be isolated instances or even small things that are abusive behavior that maybe are not something that would warrant a legal authority getting involved but nonetheless, the intent is to exert power.

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