Missing Fathers Leave Their Mark with ‘Boyhood’ Movie

Boyhood Movie Ethan HawkeEthan Hawke plays a father who abandons his son in “Boyhood.” For the actor, a child of divorce, the material hit close to home.

Ellar Coltrane, who shot the film over a span of 12 years to capture his actual transition into adolescence, is the titular “boy.” The character’s father (Hawke) checked out some time ago, and when he returns at long last the damage, apparently, has been done. That’s not a spoiler. It’s what Hawke told a journalist about the film.

“[Director Richard Linklater] and I both felt the project was an opportunity to create a portrait of fatherhood,” says Mr. Hawke. “Both our fathers were in the insurance business in Texas. Both found happiness in their second marriages….”

“The movie became this 12-year meditation on the things Rick and I were learning as parents, and also as children,” Mr. Hawke continues. “My parents’ divorce was the dominating factor in my psyche, and to relive that from the parental point of view is not anything I ever wished for.”

That’s the kind of blunt talk actors rarely share.

The “Boyhood” movie, already winning critical raves, may leave an indelible impression on film goers beyond what Hawke and co. bring to the project. Particularly young men who may face a situation similar to the one shown on screen. Leave your child behind and the ensuing scars never heal.

Say what you will about the current state of film. Movies still have the power to make us confront issues we’d rather avoid. And, at times, highlight the need for a strong family unit in ways other media can’t match.

Which brings me to “Bad Words,” the new black comedy starring Jason Bateman as a grown man determined to win the Golden Quill spelling bee. Please stop reading now if you want to see the film sans spoilers.

Still with me?

Bateman’s character won’t stop until he is crowned the champion over a swarm of hard-charging students. But why? The answer points to an absence in his past, one that hurt him so profoundly he’s willing to suffer one public humiliation atop another to make his point.

The message in both “Boyhood” and “Bad Words” is crystal clear. Fathers matter. And M.I.A. fathers may matter more for all the wrong reasons.

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