beautiful boy | review
Anything and everything we’ve seen about drugs or addiction in movies is usually not even half of what the reality is behind it. Most movies do an awful job, glorifying the habit or relating it to a glamorous lifestyle. Beautiful Boy does none of that.
Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy is based off the memoirs of father and son, David and Nic Sheff where Nic struggles with addiction, affecting his family and testing their father-son relationship during those times.
The film is narrated in a captivating manner as it follows a time-jumping format. From the very first scene, the intent of the film is set as we see David (Steve Carrell) admitting to an expert that his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) is addicted to crystal meth. While the time-jump may seem frustrating at the beginning, we slowly understand its purpose. Both characters have their own parallel timelines in the movie, giving it more space to dive into each flaw, each pain and each emotion the character is enduring individually. The film portrays the uncomfortable truths about addiction. But it most importantly deals with how one’s family and loved ones are affected by this destructive path taken by the addicted.
Groeningen’s narratives structure slowly makes more sense as we understand that these are memories that David replays. He reiterates the idea that maybe his son’s addiction is his fault, making those interludes the most heartbreaking parts to watch during the film. The paradox of the happier times causing more pain and torture to David is seen to be relentlessly cruel as it breaks your heart into a million pieces as a parent or even just as a bystander. Throughout the film, there is an inexplicable unbearable pain that weighs down your chest as you see David trying to save Nic who is constantly falling back into an empty void going around in circles.
As an audience member, you end up rooting for Nic as he tries to retain his sobriety multiple times in the movie only for him to slip back into a vicious cycle of relapse and we become accustomed to it for rest of the film.
It is impossible not to grow fond of Nic as Chalamet engages the audience’s sympathy and curiosity even with his erratic and selfish behavior. While Nic is portrayed as a loner who reads Charles Bukowski, listens to Bowie and draws dark cartoons, Chalamet does the hard task of portraying a crystal meth addict. It is often different from other ‘junkie behavior’ where he’s steering between fear, desperation, aggression and vulnerability in the most authentic way seen. Chalamet does an impeccable job avoiding those clichés and making us genuinely care about his character that repeatedly tests the patience of his loved ones. His performance is well deserved of all the nominations as he once again stands out in this movie.
Exceeding its own grim subject matter, the film is not once judgmental about the topic and stresses the fact that it could happen to anybody. Even somebody like Nic who is intelligent, likeable, a good student and a good son. The film deliberately acknowledges the obscurity and the lack of reasoning to why anyone can fall into the hole of addiction.
Even if you can’t relate to the drug-addiction plot, most people will be able to relate to a parent’s love and sacrifice for their child and the other way around. When David is seen escorting a young Nic to the airport, he tells him that even if he took all the words in the world they wouldn’t be enough to describe how much he loves Nic. He loves him more than everything and as so instead of “I love you and goodbye” they say “everything.”
If you are somebody that feels for any of these things, you need to watch Beautiful Boy more than everything.