Screening Room

An Aria of Maternal Grief

How Patricia Arquette’s final scene in Boyhood cements her performance as one for the ages.

With Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette a favorite to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress this Sunday, Slate film critic Dana Stevens takes a closer look at Arquette’s remarkable performance as Olivia, the doughty single mother in Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making coming-of-age story. In this video essay, Stevens looks at Arquette’s final scene, in which her son’s impending departure for college sets the stage for an aria of maternal grief. Does Linklater really intend for us to leave this fiercely independent character on such a tragic note? And what are we to make of Olivia’s final speech, in which she manifests empty-nest syndrome as a full-blown existential crisis?