Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan
Run Time: 2h
Genre: Biography, Drama
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
This story is based on a memoir written by David and Nic Sheff. It’s about the cycle of drug abuse Nic couldn’t liberate himself from and David who tried everything he could think of to help him escape. The title, ‘Beautiful Boy’ comes from the John Lennon song that David (Carell) used to sing to Nic (Chalamet) when he couldn’t sleep at night be. He was singing it still when Nic was eighteen and laying on the bed passed out from the many drugs that were running through his system. They seized the boy, refusing to loosen their grip but there sits David, stroking his hair remembering the Nic he knew, certain that one day he’d return.
With this film director Felix Van Groeningen, who also had a hand in writing the script, is making available to you a world you’ll find frighteningly realistic and familiar or, hopefully, one you’re blissfully ignorant of yet paralyzed by. Regardless of which it is, you’ll be pleased with the presentation in every design choice he’s made to entertain and captivate you. The score is gorgeous, and the soundtrack is equally pleasing. The cinematography is such that you feel you’re experiencing how Nic feels when he’s high while concurrently reminded of what his exposure and reliance on the drugs is doing to those who love him. We’ve all seen the drug abuse movie before but not the way Van Groeningen brings it to you. David is desperate to help rescue Nic and he rummages through Nic’s things. While he does this, we watch memories of Nic in various stages of childhood run through his mind. We watch them grow closer and see when Nic begins to pull away.
Nic tells him that he’s tried almost every drug there is but likes methamphetamine’s the most. He goes on to say that meth makes him feel better than he has ever felt in his life. Upon hearing this, you can feel the pain ripple through David as he realizes his child prefers drugs and what they can give him to the unconditional love he has always offered.
David researches rehab facilities several times but for the most part, they’re unsuccessful, as is Nic’s lies about getting sober. David’s hopes are dashed when he’s told that Nic’s particular addictions have a success rate in the single digits. In order to get to know his son more, he takes some cocaine himself and starts talking to people who use. He does everything he can to learn not only what he can understand what Nic likes so much but about whether or not it’s time to do the inevitable and let him go.
You may not like the use of flashbacks and cuts in editing that constantly take you from one stage of Nic’s life to another; one stage of David’s discovery to the next. It sometimes gets a little hard to keep up but it’s reasonable to assume this the impression Van Groeningen wanted to leave you with is one of nervousness, restlessness, and anxiety so you could understand the Sheff’s that much more.
Chalamet is flawless in his take on Nic. He was fully committed to the part even using facial tics the young child actor who played him as a little boy has when on screen. I predict right now that he’ll be walking up to the stage to accept an Academy Award or at the very least will be nominated for this outstanding performance. This is a very powerful and heartbreaking story. I recommend you see this as soon as humanly possible.