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One of the most commercially successful films of 2014 was BOYHOOD, a film directed by Richard Linklater and starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke. It cost US $4 million to produce but grossed US $43 million in the box office. Even more, it received six Oscar nominations and won the Best Actress award for Patricia Arquette. For the BAFTA film awards, it won Best Film, Best Director (for Richard Linklater), and Best Actress. It is the first in film history to take 12 years to complete (39 days of filming from 2002 to 2013). It followed the life of a six-year-old boy as he transitioned from Grade 1 in primary school to Grade 12 in senior high school, culminating with his graduation from high school. The boy was accompanied by the same set of actors and actresses throughout the 12 years of filming, which started in the city of Houston, Texas in the summer of 2002 with the child actor Ellar Coltrane at the center of the story of transition from boyhood to adolescence.
The plot is quite representative of family life in the United States, where more than fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. The mother of the main character, Mason, went through three marriages, inflicting so much trauma to him and his sister Samantha. A synopsis of the film that appeared in Wikipedia used the appropriate adjective when it described the changes in the successive families of Mason as “seismic”, creating so much unhappiness among the children because of the selfishness of the divorcing parents who can only think of their own respective pleasures, completely oblivious to the harm they were doing to their children as they went from one partner to another. In a very subliminal way, the film also illustrates that divorce can lead to one unhappy marriage to another. If divorce is not easily attainable in the legal framework of a country, couples who experience the usual conflicts and misunderstandings in any marital relation will be more disposed to go to heroic extents to resolve their differences for the sake of the children. There is much evidence from the social sciences that children of divorced parents are psychologically handicapped and are not as academically successful as their counterparts among the more stable families.
The film Boyhood presents the truth that the most critical period in which the separation of parents can do much harm to a human being is during his adolescence, which can be the most troubled phase in his life. By sheer coincidence, after seeing the film in a flight from Dubai to Barcelona abroad Etihad Airlines, I got hold of a magazine entitled Family and Culture published by the Family Enrichment Foundation in Spain. The issue focused on “Understanding the Adolescent.” The author, Fernando Alberca, is one of the most authoritative specialists on the education of the youth. According to him, the adolescent is half in the making between a child and an adult, being closer to the latter than the former. The difficulty arises from the fact that his growth demands much from his parents: more affection, more patience, more reasoning, more certainty, more example and more truth.
It is during adolescence that a person has more possibilities of happiness compared to his childhood. Adolescence brings with it more intelligence, more self-knowledge, and more freedom, three ingredients which are indispensable for a human being to attain earthly happiness. What happens is that it is during adolescence when what was hidden during childhood is made manifest. This does not mean that the adolescent is more insecure than the child. He just shows this insecurity more openly. The adult—like the child but for different reasons—is able to hide his fears with greater facility. It is very important for parents to be very aware of the needs of their adolescent children and to be ready to listen, to encourage, to advise, and to correct when necessary. Parents have to understand their special language because they never say exactly what they are thinking. For example, when they are asked “How are you?” or “How are things with you?” they may answer “Well.” But “well” may mean exactly the opposite. “Everything went wrong” does not mean that things are hopeless. It may just mean that he has some problem to resolve. Given these special needs of the adolescent, one should not be surprised if a person going through this phase will need badly the very close friendship of his parents and will benefit from their unity in love and affection. The worse circumstances that an adolescent can face, as in the film Boyhood, is to experience their parents going through several marriages and having to adapt to successive step fathers (one of whom turned out to be an alcoholic) as in the case of Mason and Samantha.
I hope that the few legislators in the Philippine Congress who want to legalize divorce in the Philippines will go out of their way to watch this award-winning film to realize what they would be inflicting on thousands of children and adolescents in the Philippines if they succeed in succumbing to one of the worst forms of “ideological colonization”, i.e. importing to our society the culture of divorce that has become prevalent in other countries. We should be actually thankful that the Philippines is the only remaining large country in which divorce continues to be prohibited by both our Constitution and our laws. Let us learn from the travails and tribulations of young children and adolescents like Mason and Samantha in the film “Boyhood.” For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.