This isn’t a review of the film Boyhood – there are other articles that can give you a full play-by-play. I watched it a few weeks ago on the evening it won the Golden Globe for Best Film, but it wasn’t planned out that way. My wife and I share an unwritten rule that we try to start whichever movie is delivered to our home as soon as possible so that our Netflix subscription doesn’t go to waste. The strategy doesn’t always payoff, but it did with this movie: Boyhood is an excellent feat of filmmaking that everyone should see. It was incredible for a few reasons; the acting was wonderful, the story was satisfying, and the plot moved organically, striking a nice pace that felt neither rushed nor drug out – even at a whopping 165 minutes. I will highly recommend it. It was a great film, and, as it ended, we agreed that we never needed to see it again.
Let me explain.
We all know that there are certain films that are so terrible (e.g. Troll 2 and Evil Dead) that people want to watch them over and over again, somehow making them into fond friends. I find the opposite is true as well, that there are certain films so good that to re-watch would be to ruin. For me, Boyhood is one of those films. Saving Private Ryan and Memento are One-timers, too. These are all great films that I really enjoyed watching, but I don’t want multiple visits. Multiple views diminish the effect and ruin an otherwise good experience because there is a sense of wonder and otherness in these films that is so powerful in the moment but lost on a second or third time through. Have you ever watched the Sixth Sense a second time? It’s a powerful movie during the first view and a waste of time on the second; the entire mystery and anticipation are gone and the twist ending is ruined by knowing. It might not be at the same level of greatness as some of the other films that I consider One-timers, but you get the point.
Now, don’t confuse the One-timer with the Despised. We usually don’t make it through the Despised and, if we do, we never want to see it again, either, but for completely different reasons. I learned this lesson while watching The Tailor of Panama in its entirety, hopefully expecting some sort of O. Henry twist that would make me fall in love with the story and the characters. It was such a mundane and predictable movie that I was sure at any moment something must be about to happen that would flip things on their head and make sense of the boredom. That twist never came and I was left wondering why I had wasted that much of my life with a film that was not enjoyable and not even interesting. I didn’t care what happened to them in the end. No, the Despised have a shelf of their own – hidden in the back of our minds like an embarrassing little episode we hope our friends will never discover.
One-timers, by comparison, do not contain anything close to mundane. These are films that fill us with excitement and talk. They are so near the actual feeling of life that we want to cherish them like an actual memory rather than dilute them through re-watch. They are a once in a lifetime safari or that week at summer camp when we fell in love. We remember fondly and enjoy relating our experience to others, comparing notes and discussing the events in detail, knowing that we’ll never have anything quite like it again, even if we went back. I visited the town I grew up in a few months ago. I was with my wife and my kids, none of them had never been there before. It was a trip down memory lane – me pointing out my elementary school and the street I grew up on. In some ways it was all the same as when I left it and in other was remarkably different. “You can never go back again” lingered on every street. Even if I moved back, I’d never go back to my boyhood. I can’t go back and experience my own boyhood again, no matter where I live. The beauty of Boyhood the movie is that we get a chance to experience something dangerously close. Out of respect for the moment, I don’t want to go back to it either, as easy as it might be. Better to let it drift into memory in the way my own has.
Saving Private Ryan is one on the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen, but I never want to see it again, either. Before he died, my Grandfather saw the film and was shaken by it. “Nathan,” he said, “I’m sorry you had to see that. Your other grandfather and I fought that war so that you would never have to experience that. And now they’ve gone and put it on film. I don’t want to stand on the shores of Normandy ever again – even as experienced through film.” Well said, Grandfather.
Boyhood was recently nominated for a number of Academy Awards including Best Picture and a few best actor/actress nominations and I’m rooting for it to sweep all of its categories. But I’ll never see it again. You may have your own list of movies that made you say – “Wow, that was great, but never again.” Leave your picks in the comments and let the debate begin.