The Ecclesiastes Moment In The Movie “Boyhood”

movie boyhood
As soon as I saw the trailer for the movie “Boyhood” I wanted to watch it. I am a highly nostalgic person and look back on the days of my youth with a mixture of wonder and regret. If you want to know why the movie is Rated R you can take a look at Christianity Today’s review of the film. I enjoyed the movie but as a father with three young kids I fully realize that this film is not age-appropriate for them.

The movie, as far as I can tell, is one-of-a-kind in the sense that it is filmed over the course of 12 years. It is amazing to watch everyone in the movie grow old right before your eyes.
movie boyhood 1

If you are looking for explosions, car chase scenes, and lots of action you will be incredibly disappointed. The plot is very simply the day-to-day happenings of one family. The simplicity, to me, is the beauty of the film. When you think about it, each one of us has a pretty amazing story played out through everyday life. The film’s star and primary character is Mason played by Ellar Coltrane. The father is played by Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr), the mother (Olivia) by Patricia Arquette.

Throughout the movie you get to watch the highs and lows of Mason’s family. Mason’s mother has an uncanny knack for marrying men with anger issues and serious drinking problems. This leads Mason’s family to continually pack up, move on and keep looking for a better life. One of the things I keenly sensed in the movie is a restlessness. All of the characters seemed to be looking for fulfillment, meaning, a place where they belong. Because of the fact that Mason is such a free-spirited boy at one point in the movie one of his teachers asks him, “What do you want to be Mason? What do you want to do?” Important questions for all of us.

The Ecclesiastes Moment is towards the very end of the movie. Mason is about to head off to college and Olivia completely breaks down, cries, and makes the haunting statement (paraphrased), “I just thought there would be more to life.” Olivia has been through two terrible marriages, worked hard to get back on her feet, earned her Master’s degree and becomes a fairly successful college professor. Yet, as she sees her son head off to college she is left with a nagging feeling that there should be more to life. Life has happened and it was not what she had dreamed it would be. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, worked harder than most people at finding fulfillment in knowledge, pleasure, wealth and at the end of it all he wrote this…

And what ever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11

I think it is fair to say that we all have a deep restlessness and we are longing to find purpose and fulfillment from the stories of our lives. Even as followers of Jesus Christ we can fall into the trap of thinking that we can find happiness in the stuff of this world.

The tragedy is that the ache we all live with can lead us to destroy ourselves as we recklessly pursue the next buzz that we hope will keep us going. Could it be that this ache is a good thing? Perhaps we should acknowledge this craving in our soul for what it truly is, a sacred gift* that has been given to us to point us towards the only one who can truly satisfy us. We find the only source of true fulfillment towards the end of Ecclesiastes…

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth… Ecclesiastes 12:1


*Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. -CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

5 comments

  1. It would be good to finish the thought that Kohelet wrote 2500 years ago and not just end it to fit a modern concept. He writes after trying his hand at many great projects – “When I looked back over all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve it was as futile as chasing the wind for I had gained nothing of lasting benefit under the sun. The only reward for all my labour was the joy my heart found while I was working.” This is the thesis of his writing. Work is meant to be enjoyed at the time, not used to take us to some future goal. God has said that by the sweat of our brow we shall eat bread (a daily activity) not “get ahead”. People are disappointed in their lives because they worked for the future and failed to enjoy each day. Kohelet writes “Life is sweet and it is a pleasure to see the light of day. No matter how many days a person may live, each one should be fully enjoyed for darker days, days of futility will come.” Life is short but God continues to give us good gifts.
    Vance – http://www.artofwork.ca

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    1. Thanks for the response. You wrote that people are “disappointed in their lives because they worked for the future and failed to enjoy each day.” That is only a part of the message of the book of Ecclesiastes and the collective testimony of Scripture. Ecclesiastes and the rest of Scripture make it clear that we enjoy life when we remember the One who created us and gives life meaning. Which I point out in my post. Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

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