Boyhood and Father Hunger

Posted: September 25, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Drama, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

MV5BMTYzNDc2MDc0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDQ5MTE@._V1__SX626_SY660_Every once in a great while, a film will come along that changes the way we see the medium—or at least frees us from Michael Bay’s death grip and makes us aware that cinema isn’t an entirely useless affair. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is that kind of movie. For those of you who haven’t heard, it chronicles the childhood of a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and was filmed over the course of 12 years. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to complete such a project, and Linklater’s passion shines throughout this film. Lest this post seem like an enthusiastic endorsement of a feel-good movie, however, allow me to add a word of caution. The story of Boyhood is, in fact, quite sad. Sure, there are plenty of moments where you will feel overwhelmed by the the film’s uniqueness and breathtaking scope, but Boyhood will break your heart; it will make you grieve and mourn. Why, you ask? Because Boyhood shows you what fatherlessness looks like. And it is devastating.

When we first meet Mason (at the age of 5), we learn that his parents are divorced. We watch as Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) struggles to get him and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), his sister, through school while working to support the family. The family is clearly in need of the loving, Christ-like leadership of a man. The primary male influence in Mason and Samantha’s life at that point, however, is their mother’s overbearing and controlling boyfriend. In an early scene we sit with Mason and Samantha in their room late one night as mom and boyfriend fight, the screams and curses pouring into the room through the walls.

Mason and Samantha do get to spend time with their father (Ethan Hawke) on occasion, but sadly it often appears that he is more childish than his children. Instead of raising his children, Mason Sr. spends his days journeying to Alaska in search of some mystical sense of self-fulfillment, or hanging out with his wannabe musician buddies trying to re-live the so-called glory days. In short, he is the type of father who loves to be with his kids when it fits into his schedule. Sadly, the other father figures that come into Mason and Samantha’s life have little to offer—other than abuse and drunkenness.

This picture of father hunger—the aching spiritual and emotional void left in families wherein the father is not present—painted in Boyhood is painful to watch precisely because it is so close to reality. God instituted the family—put the man and woman in the garden and said, “be fruitful and multiply.” He told the man to lead; instead, the man chose to forsake his family and his God and call his own shots. The pattern has been set, the sin inherited, the family marginalized and devalued. This wretched plague of fatherless families has many discernible effects, but it is an unmistakably and fundamentally spiritual problem. Consider the words of pastor and author Doug Wilson:

Father hunger causes loneliness, aggression, rebellion against authority, hatred of kindness, lack of self-control, legalistic pietism, religion based on fear instead of love, and much, much more. But the Incarnation of the Christ deals with this in the only way possible. Jesus brings us to the Father. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but through Him. If we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. He teaches us to pray to our Father in heaven. This is the Father from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name (Eph. 3:15).[1]

Fathers and husbands, now is the time for you to live up to your God-given calling. Today is the day of salvation—the time to turn from your sins and trust in Christ. Please, men, flee from your selfishness and love your wives and children. Serve them. Humble yourself. Follow the example set by our Lord. At one point in Boyhood, Mason is given a Bible as a gift. He and his dad laugh and joke about it. Don’t be fooled; Linklater’s worldview is decidedly non-Christian, but he is nevertheless making a very valid observation in this scene. There is a tragic sort of irony as Mason and Mason Sr. scoff at the idea that they need God, while their lives are broken and marred by sin. Sadly, this is the attitude adopted by many in the present age. I think Linklater senses that irony. And while he is fully capable of recognizing these inconsistencies and asking the right questions, he is not able to see that what we really need is a good dose of biblical fatherhood. After all, “[i]n order to deal with the plague of fatherlessness, we have to return first to the worship of God the Father.” [2]

 


[1] http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/father-hunger-2.html

[2] Wilson, Douglas. Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Nashville Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 26.

 

 

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Comments
  1. […] Boyhood and Father Hunger  – “The story of Boyhood is, in fact, quite sad. Sure, there are plenty of moments where you will feel overwhelmed by the the film’s uniqueness and breathtaking scope, but Boyhood will break your heart; it will make you grieve and mourn. Why, you ask? Because Boyhood shows you what fatherlessness looks like. And it is devastating.” […]

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