Beautiful Boy Movie Review
Whether it be a loved one or an acquaintance, many of us have experienced someone we know who has had a problem with addiction. There have been many movies covering the topic, specifically using alcohol and drugs as the vice. Plenty of films just barely scratch the surface and some just casually treat it as part of the package when becoming rich or famous, usually found in biopics. Some have done it better than others, but the film usually taps into an emotion that most people can identify surrounding their own lives, whether it be a friend or family member. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie cover drug addiction as deep, personal, heartfelt, and impactful as BEAUTIFUL BOY.
Based on David Sheff’s memoir ‘Beautiful Boy’ and his son Nic Sheff’s memoir ‘Tweak’, BEAUTIFUL BOY follows a father and son relationship as newly graduated Nic battles addiction and his father, David, doesn’t know how to help. Handled with great patience and care, the screenplay is written by Luke Davies and Felix Fan Groeningen, who also directed the film. In his first English speaking film, Belgium director, Groeningen, takes the time to know the characters and understand the heaviness of their situation as the film chronicles the emotional, painful, and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.
BEAUTIFUL BOY is not only an emotionally powerful story, but it also contains perhaps the two best performances of the year. Timothee Chalamet, who had a breakout role with his Oscar nominated performance in last year’s CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, proves that he is not a one trick pony and has a long career in front of him. The ups and downs of his emotional roller coaster as a young drug addict, who eventually lands on Methamphetamine, is more complete and I am guessing more accurate and honest than what we’ve seen before. Obviously it has a lot of extreme moments that award shows eat up, but it also surpasses that typical Oscar-bait mode that we’ve seen before (even this year). However, while young Chalamet will be an obvious choice come award season, I was even more impressed with Steve Carell’s performance as a father who wants nothing more than to help his child. Still seeing his son as a small innocent boy through flashbacks paralleling moments of pure chaos as an adult, I found these moments to be incredibly affective. Perhaps I’m biased because I’m am a father. But his character is the one that I identified with most. I kept placing my own children in Nic’s situation and it destroyed me throughout the entire film.
While the highs and lows of Nic are far more sympathetic due to Chalamet’s performance capturing innocence and sincerity, it’s David who is empathetic, watching this father do everything he can to investigate, understand and help his child until it nearly drains him completely. Carell delivers his best performance of his career subtly providing pain and love. While the love clearly never leaves, it’s interesting to see the dad’s struggle slowly change to defeat as Nic’s repeated behavior wears on him.
But BEAUTIFUL BOY isn’t only about the two of them. The entire family dynamic plays a role that is wonderful and sometimes hurtful. David remarried when Nic was a child. And now Karen, played with restrained strength by Maura Tierney, and David have two children of their own, who all adore Nic. In a sort of odd “The Office” reunion, Nic’s mom, Vicki, is played beautifully by Amy Ryan. All the characters have touching moments where we can see just how much they are affected and tormented. The relationships are sometimes strained by the situation but also strengthened as they all come together the best they can to support Nic.
BEAUTIFUL BOY is emotional. It is painful. And it is powerful.