Cast: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan
Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.
While the Awards Season releases are already more than underway, every year we get a couple of films that everyone is anticipating to be major players in February but that ultimately come up empty-handed. It looks as though Beautiful Boy is the first one of these movies to come out this year. While the film is an emotional gut punch for the entire 120 minute runtime and the performances by all the lead and supporting actors are phenomenal, the story does not go into the necessary depths for it to leave a lasting impact on the audience.
The film follows David Sheff (Carell) as he does whatever he can to help his son Nic (Chalamet) overcome his drug addiction over the course of several years. Whether it through periods of peace and sobriety or during his relapses and criminal activity, David struggles with Nic’s disease and the guilt of whether or not he could have done more to prevent it. The relationship between David and Nic is the true highlight of the movie, with Carell and Chalamet giving some of the strongest performances of their careers. Carell in particular is incredibly moving with his performance as you end up feeling awful for David and the situation he has been placed in. He clearly loves his son and wants to see him succeed in whatever avenue he decides to go in life and Carell is the reason why this idea is delivered so clearly. Chalamet on the other hand gives us a very in-depth look into what it is like to struggle with drug addiction. We develop an emotional attachment to Nic and want nothing more than for him to overcome the obstacles and beat his addiction, and when he fails it feels like he is failing us as well as his family. Even the smaller roles from Tierney and Ryan show us that every person in Nic’s life has been impacted by his decisions and just how deep an addiction can run to hurt the people around you. The depths at which the film does not go is regarding how Nic got addicted to drugs in the first place. There are a few moments where it looks like the film is alluding to Nic’s drug use as an escape from undiagnosed depression or anxiety, but we never get a clear answer. I believe this may because of how this film was adapted for the screen. Instead of adapting this from either David or Nic’s books, the film takes sections from both books and combines them into one movie. Since the movie predominantly follows David’s story, it seems as though most of the source material comes from David’s book. After watching this movie, I am much more curious about Nic’s book as I assume it will give me some more clarity on the background of Nic’s drug use. For a movie that focuses almost all its time on exerting as much familial ethos as possible, I wish it would have spent a little more time dissecting the origins of Nic’s addiction. I appreciated the raw power that was shown when discussing the impact it has and the damage drugs do to people, but it all had to start somewhere and this movie never really goes to that length.
Overall, this film definitely knows which heartstrings to tug on and it does so very successfully. I hope that people and families who have suffered from these issues can relate to this movie and prove to the general audience that it is as authentic as it feels. Beautiful Boy is certainly a good movie, but outside of the emotionally tense moments, the story could have used some fine tuning for it to become an elite movie. Maybe it ends up where Carell and Chalamet end up getting some serious awards nominations, but outside of those two it is tough to see Beautiful Boy getting any consideration outside of those two categories.
Overall Score: 7/10