Beautiful Boy is a brutally honest portrayal of drug addiction and the affect it has on the families of the addicted.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Beautiful Boy is based on the true story of Nic Sheff, a young man who succumbs to drug and alcohol addictions, and his family’s experience as they attempt to help him overcome them, even after repeated relapses. Told mainly from the point of view of Nic (Timothée Chalamet) and his father David (Steve Carell), the film seamlessly covers many years in a seeming blur of time as Nic continually battles his inner demons.
Beautiful Boy is a heavy family drama that tackles one of the biggest issues affecting young people today. From the escapism and sheer terror felt by Nic, the desperation and grief David experiences as he desperately searches the streets for his son time and time again, the frustration of Nic’s stepmom, to his mother’s complete helplessness, it’s a difficult film to watch. For anyone who has experienced drug addiction amongst their loved ones, the tropes utilised in Beautiful Boy are all too familiar and equally painful to see played out on the big screen.
The film is led by an extremely talented cast. I’m a huge fan of Carell’s, of both his comedic and dramatic work, and he doesn’t disappoint in this role. He brings a different presence to the father role from other similar roles, choosing instead to take on a quiet desperation in David’s characterisation rather than the aggressive, shouting father figures that are all too common. This approach grounds the performance and has you empathising with David’s character a lot more. Chalamet is equally brilliant, and it’s his neurotic take on Nic that further alienates him from society. Chalamet’s ability to flick between his raging mood swings and playing the victim to try and get money from his family is both impressive and horrifically sad to watch.
Director Felix van Groeningen brings a hallucinogenic feel to the film and the timeline it operates within, causing confusion as to how much time has passed and where we are in the story, but just as quickly, it centres itself again and the story continues. Groeningen also manages to tell an intricate but honest story about the impact drugs have on the whole family. Maura Tierney does a great job at playing Nic’s stepmom, capturing the pain and detachment of someone who isn’t directly related to Nic but is emotionally attached to David. Her love for Nic is evident but the need to protect her own children from the realities of the world is also a driving factor that sees her take a much stronger stance against Nic.
The film is great, from the eclectic soundtrack all the way through to the brilliant casting and beautifully written script. The film is intense and feels longer than its two hours, but not in a bad way. It’s a well-balanced story that allows room for character growth and story development, without skipping over any characters or leaving questions unanswered. There are times when it’s hard to keep track of how much time has passed as the characters don’t seem to get older, but it’s a film that keeps you thinking long after you’ve seen it. That, for me, is the mark of a great film.
Beautiful Boy is available in Australian cinemas from October 25
Also screening as part of the RoofTop Movies Program 1 on Dec 05.
Image courtesy of Transmission Films