Boyhood and Under the Skin are two of the best films of 2014. The deeper meanings of the films could be interpreted many different ways, however both films applied innovative methods to provide us with a perspective on the human experience.
These two films, more than any other I’ve seen this year, stayed with me for days. The films bring insights into the human experience by showing us otherwise mundane interactions: reading Harry Potter with your family, being offered help by a stranger, walking away from a bully, or getting submerged in thick black goo…okay maybe not that one. What is the meaning behind these positive and negative interactions? What factors influence the choices that we make as we shape our lives? These questions are so big that a more traditional film might not be able to advance the discussion. However, the perspective of the outsider in Under the Skin and the extreme passage of time in Boyhood enable us to reflect on humanity and the society that surrounds us.
In many ways Boyhood and Under the Skin are opposites. One depicts a seemingly standard coming of age story with straightforward visuals and nostalgic pop songs, while the other offers an unprecedented Sci-Fi horror film with flashy and memorable cinematography and a haunting score. These two movies are two of my favorites of the year, however I can’t recommend them for everyone. Many viewers will find Boyhood too slow and uneventful. And many will find Under the Skin too strange and confusing.
Boyhood slowly won me over with its solid emotional core. As the characters age, the years of subtle life experiences provided insights and prompted waves of introspection. In opposition, the mystery of the female sexual predator from another world immediately sparked my interest in Under the Skin. *** Spoilers Start *** But the movie jumped to a new level as Johansson transitioned from being a monster to someone that we recognize as trapped in a system (practically a slave), sent to Earth to commit crimes that she didn’t fully understand. In addition, the story’s evolution created a compelling examination of how social interactions are dictated by our appearances. *** Spoilers End ***
Under the Skin didn’t get a single nomination for the Academy Awards. I’m not shocked, but it is a shame that Hollywood doesn’t bring attention to Under the Skin and other bold and innovative films. Boyhood on the other hand is the favorite for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress. Many have criticized the film as only gaining this level of acclaim because of ‘the gimmick.’ I believe that the film would have been insightful and moving even without the unique filming process. However, I must admit that the bare cinematography and the slow-paced storyline diminish the film. Maybe repeated viewings will bring new levels of enjoyment, but looking back in a few years, I don’t expect Boyhood to be my favorite film of 2014. Under the Skin, on the other hand, has a better chance of becoming my favorite of the year as repeated viewings will likely provide new insights into Glazer’s vision and prompt me to create new theories about that wonderful black goo.