Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
About a year ago I fell in love with a distant memory. Like echoes through the decades, watching Before Sunrise brought back remembrances of a day long ago cruising the Aegean Sea, and a night filled with wonder in the twisty streets and twisty bars of Athens’ Plaka district. More than just memories, Before Sunrise brought back those feelings so long forgotten. A film was able to do that because Jesse and Celine were genuine, I didn’t doubt it for a moment. They weren’t two actors shooting scenes with cameras and lights and clapboards and takes, they were Jesse and Celine, and I was a fly on the wall, and I was there with them, and I was there in my own past.
Remarkably, after all this time, the only thing I knew about Boyhood was the basic trope of filming the actors over a 12 year period. I had seen a Michael Winterbottom film a few years ago at TIFF, Everyday, that used the same technique, abet only 5 years.
What I didn’t know is that Boyhood was frighteningly close to my own life in more ways than it wasn’t; one of the few small differences was that it was two years out of sync with my own life, I didn’t leave for Alaska to work on a boat, and I had a modern black Mazda MX6 rather than a classic black GTO.
Many scenes were familiar. The backpack with scrunched up homework assignments that were never handed in, going out bowling on one of our weekly nights together, that particular scrutinizing look from my ex when we returned from bowling and were questioned about ‘what did you have for dinner’ of course to which my son gleefully says ‘hot dogs!’, and I sheepish lie, ‘er, ah, more than just hot dogs’ ( yeah, there were chips too. )
While practically everything on the screen were moments I lived through, and probably the most important and heartfelt moments of my life, I remained untouched.
Over the past day or so I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think I know. They were acting. The bowling scene was written to deliver the line ‘you don’t need the bumpers … life doesn’t give you bumpers’.
In our bowling alley, we did use the bumpers, for a time, and then we didn’t. I remember one particular night, shortly after we decided together that bumpers were no longer necessary. There were gutters galore, and my aim, as a Dad, was to try and keep the score as even as possible. To wit, I would attempt the most outrageous, Fred Flintstone worthy, bowls that you could imagine. I kept getting strikes. Not only that, I was making the situation worse because I would break out in laughter each time the pins went flying, putting up that palms up shrug. Out of the blue, my son comes up with 3 consecutive strikes of his own, and pulls ahead in the final frame. His wry smile that night is one of my most cherished memories. The hand scored sheet is still in a memory box somewhere in the basement. Buried somewhere below is most likely a peeled beer label with a phone number from a girl I met on a cruise on the Aegean sea 37 years ago.
What’s the difference? I don’t know for sure, other than I didn’t believe. Maybe the disconnected stitched together moments never allowed enough time for me relate. Maybe, even though those scenes avoided most of the classic milestones of growing up, they still had an agenda, and I could sense it.
It doesn’t matter, though. Before Sunrise gave me a glimpse and feeling of my youth, and I’m grateful for that. Now that my son lives on his own in another city attending university, plus has a few part time jobs, we see each other less these days. Every time I get a text from him, those much more precious memories and feelings stir, and I realize what’s important in life, and I smile a big smile.