There have been many movies made on addiction. Even A Star is Born focuses on the debilitating disease. Stories like these need to be told because we need to understand the struggles of those suffering, the heartache of the families, and support ways we help people blighted
Director Felix Van Groeningen, the open and honest story about addiction. Based on the memoirs of Nic and David Sheff, Beautiful Boy revolves around a father struggling to keep his eldest son Nic of drugs. Going over several years, Nic recovers and relapses repeatedly, unaware of the impact his addiction is having on his family.
Timothée Chalamet came into prominence with Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (and also made millions and millions fall in love with him.) As brilliant as his performance is in that film, the end roaring fireplace credit sequence a particular highlight, it’ll not prepare you for how astonishing he is in Beautiful Boy. Chalamet has the difficult task at portraying Nic Sheff’s constant battle with addiction, Chalamet is captivating which makes the film more brutal. From Nic’s candidness about why he chose to take drugs to his relapses, Chalamet gets into the grittiness of addiction. The young actor is open and each experience Nic goes through here is palpable. Scenes of desperation, illness, and disease are harrowing yet you can’t keep your eyes off him. He’s haunting here and no matter what lengths he goes too, you feel compassion, pity, and solace for him.
Steve Carell has made impressive strides in dramatic performances such as Foxcatcher, Battle of the Sexes, and The Big Short. Here, however, is certainly his best work. Carell is tremendous as David, hopelessly and urgently trying to help his son, no matter what he puts him through. Each agonizing phone call to every late night search, Carell inhibits this father who is slowly abandoning his son through sure resignation. But also he has to be a father to his other children and a husband to his wife whilst also working at a writer. His balance to control Nic’s recovery with his day to day life.
Carell and Chalamet make an earnest and heart-breaking pair; with all the chemistry of a father-son pairing whilst honing in the tragic gravitas of drug-addiction for a family. Director and co-writer Van Groeningen does well to keep Nic as a sympathetic character but also shows the impact of his struggle on the rest of his family. Not just his mother Vicki (an brilliant as always Amy Ryan,) and his step-mother Karen (a phenomenal Maura Tierney,) but his little brother and sister who feel the ripples of each of Nic’s deterioration.
Beautiful Boy is an emotive experience. There is some uneven filmmaking which has some very confused editing and leaps through time. Yet with the intimate and stirring performances, you’ll find yourself captivated even if it is an excruciating watch.
Van Groeningen ends the film on statistics. It’s clear that the Sheffs’ impacting stories serve to tell a bigger story. One of the biggest epidemics in the USA, it’s important that these movies make an impact on you and see how you can help those in need.
Beautiful Boy is a Headline Gala screening at BFI London Film Festival
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