Movie Review: Beautiful Boy (2018)
While not a brand new release, the biographical drama Beautiful Boy finally received a wide release this weekend. Based on the biographies of David and Nic Sheff, the screenplay was written by Luke Davies along with Felix Van Groeningen. The film was also directed by Van Groeningen, who previously directed Belgica and The Broken Circle Breakdown. Beautiful Boy stars Steve Carell as David Sheff and Timothée Chalamet as the oldest version of Nic Sheff. The film’s supporting cast also includes Maura Tierney, Jack Dylan Grazer, Amy Ryan, and Kaitlyn Dever.
The film consists of many flashbacks and breaks in time, and it begins with David Sheff meeting with an expert to learn the effects of drug use particularly involving crystal meth. The film then jumps back one year prior to David being unable to find his son, Nic. This is not the first time that this has occurred, and once Nic finally reappears, David drives him to a rehabilitation center. David asks about success rates and the like before signing a check to cover Nic’s stay with the program. He successfully completes it but soon finds himself falling back into old habits. The story continues to follow Nic’s struggle with drug addiction and the impact it has on all of his loved ones.
I found Beautiful Boy to be an emotional story that delves into the devastating world of drug addiction. I have never personally experienced this with anyone in my life, so my firsthand knowledge is a little lacking; however, the movie seems to give a raw and honest look into this world. It touches on the lasting effects of some of these drugs and just how relapse figures into the rehabilitation process. The story unfolds through many flashbacks and cuts, and while initially a little jarring, it does seem the best way to convey the relationship between this father and son. I found some of the musical choices to be a little odd, but overall, the journeys of these characters are incredibly identifiable.
The real champion of the story is the relationship that exists between David and his son. The focus of the entire film is Nic’s struggle with drug addiction, but the heart of the story is the relationship between he and his father. Steve Carell plays a concerned father, who has no idea how to best help his struggling son. His attempt to understand his son’s struggles and help him through it is heartbreaking and captures the despair and pain of all loved ones touched by addiction. In the same way, Timothée Chalamet gives a desperate performance that yields the audience’s compassion and sympathy. No matter what happens in the story, though, Carell and Chalamet excellently portray the love between the two characters. The flashbacks are especially useful in establishing this connection, and the performances by everyone involved are particularly moving.
Beautiful Boy is not perfect, but it does shed a sliver of light on the journey of two people who personally experienced the perils of drug addiction. For the two hour time frame allotted, I thought the subject matter was explored well. The movie is slowly paced as many biographical pictures tend to be, but personally, I was not bothered by that fact. I think that Carell, Chalamet, and Tierney alone make this movie worth a watch, but expect to shed more than a few tears if you go to see Beautiful Boy in theaters.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.