Beautiful Boy is the heartbreaking biographic based on the on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. The film follows David Sheff (Steve Carell) as he struggles to comes to terms with his son Nic’s (Timothée Chalamet) crippling addiction to drugs. Beautiful Boy is not for the faint of heart and depicts the use of methamphetamines, overdoses, near-death experiences, and the effects that these have on one’s surrounding family, friends, and life. As someone who has had their own struggles with addiction, this film was especially powerful and served as a reminder of where that path could have potentially led.
The opening scene of Beautiful Boy sets the tone of the entire film and opens with a broken David speaking to an unseen person regarding his son’s addiction to drugs, and in particular, Crystal Meth. Funny man Steve Carell is not present in this film, instead, we are presented with a broken and dishevelled father who is at a loss at what to do. Timothée Chalamet’s performance is equally impressive and his slender frame is perfect for the drug addicted Nic. Now, I have not read the novels, nor had I heard of them before seeing this film adaptation. So, I am unsure as to how well they stick to the content, or how true of a representation the film is.
For many people, a film that addresses themes that Felix Van Groeningen tackled would be a difficult one to direct. With a statistic that nearly half of all Americans have a family member or close friend that has suffered from drug addiction, this is a reality for many people. Felix didn’t pull any punches and approached the film with brutal honesty, showing the true horror that drugs have on a person, and showing that even the best among us are susceptible. There are many haunting shots of Nic coming down, suffering from withdrawals, relapses, and more. What makes it especially powerful are the close up shots as we see the pain in David’s eyes as he watches his son slip away and the anguish in Nic’s as he’s lost in the dark, seemingly inescapable hole of addiction.
Steve and Timothy carry the film, but it’s the stellar performance of the supporting actors that helped deliver the powerful message. Maura Tierney’s Karen (Nic’s Stepmum, David’s wife) is absolutely amazing; so expertly conveying the conflicted “other parent” stereotype while also portraying the deep love she clearly had for both Nic and David. David and Karen’s two young children, Nic’s young half siblings, are so convincing that one would think they really were related, not just a couple of cute child actors. Amy Ryan’s Vicki Sheff is possibly the least convincing of the lot, but is still more than serviceable, portraying a mother who was on the outside for a lot of Nic’s life.
Beautiful Boy is a harrowing story, but one that needs to be told. We tend to overlook such issues with the sentiment that it won’t happen to us, or that it’s not that bad. But it is that bad. I commend a film willing to tackle such a difficult theme, and even more so that it’s not done to appease the Hollywood watchdogs who want a happy ending and sunshine and rainbows. It’s the complete lack of a happy ending, the fact that you’re left wondering if Nic stayed sober (To this day he is 8 years sober), and the utter dismay at not knowing which will have you leave your seat deep in thought. This is a must watch film, for those of you with your own struggles, for those of you who know someone struggling, hell, even those who just want a good film to watch.