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Beautiful Boy Review - Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell Deliver Compelling, Truthful, Performances

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Beautiful Boy, from Amazon Pictures and Plan B Entertainment, brings to the screen the true story of the father-son relationship between Nic Sheff and David Sheff as the downward spiral of substance abuse takes over their lives.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen Beautiful Boy stars Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kue Lawrence, Jack Dylan Grazer and Andre Royo. Beautiful Boy is based on the book of the same name by David Sheff and “Tweak” written by Nic Sheff.

The film begins with David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, talking with a physician about the effects of drugs and drug abuse. The doctor, whom we don’t see at this time is asking if this is for Rolling Stone or some other publication which is when we find out Nic, David’s son is addicted to crystal meth.


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This point is turning point for David as we find out later in the film. We loop back now to the early days of relationship of Nic and David.

David was able to retain custody of his son Nic, after he divorced his wife, Vicki, played by Amy Ryan, a Los Angeles based artist and each year from the time he was a child he would fly to Los Angeles from Northern California and spend summers and some holidays with his mom. At each goodbye David would explain he loved him more than everything.

In the early days after the divorce the Sheff men were inseparable, surfing, hanging out, developing a genuine and deeply loving relationship. Soon David remarried a Northern California artist, Karen, played by Maura Tierney. They were a great family.

Returning to the present we see David lying in bed, wide-eyed staring at the ceiling unable to sleep. It’s late and Nic isn’t home. By morning, he checks and the car is back with a broken headlight, and Nic is sleeping.

Which is when we begin to see the frustration David feels. Once again Nic is trusted and he comes home drugged out. As the film is made, it moves from present to past, and back to the present.

Now it is another long journey of broken promises of sobriety and the final straw. This time David takes him to rehab, which seems to work, and after a couple of weeks Nic has had it with the rules and leaves the program.

When David is informed that his son has left he immediately drives to San Francisco and scours the streets, allies, and garbage infested drug dens looking for him. This time he finds him sleeping in the pouring rain, drugged out of his mind.

Beautiful Boy is powerfully delivered and very uncomfortable. The performances are so genuine and authenticate that it feels more like voyeurism as we are given this glimpse into the inner demons and seriously dirty laundry of this otherwise really nice, socially aware, artistically inclined and supportive family.

Timothee Chalament and Steve Carell deliver remarkable character driven performances. Chalament’s character, Nic, has years of experimentation and finally hits rock bottom, the arch is more like a deep fall into a ravine, with slow climbs, shorter falls, more climbing, until he peaks. He plays these moments with astounding accuracy.

Steve Carell is impressive. His character moves from the supportive, he’s my son I have no choice I’ll do anything to save him from destroying himself, to a tough love position and no more. He delivers each shade with compelling truth.

Beautiful Boy is more than simply another drug addicted teen spirally out of control and finally fixing it. The film explores the themes that are common in all drug addicts that still retain some contact with loved ones. The cycle of broken trust plays heavily in the film as a sober/clean/clear Nic would make a promise and the drugs would take over and the break the trust.

The film also deals with the shocking statistics associated with recovery. And also highlights the NA, AA and families of NA support groups. The reality for the enabler of drug abuse, the families, the mother’s father’s, sisters, brother’s, children, is that you’ll always be planning for life after they get clean, when they are sober, when drugs don’t rule them. It is a life in waiting and not a life living.


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Beautiful Boy is shockingly real. Gripping, a genuine, authentic portrayal of drug addiction and the deep, resonating, pain of watching someone loved destroy oneself. 

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet capture the heart of the story, the emotion of each character and deliver deeply vulnerable performances. This film should surely be around during awards season.

Beautiful Boy opens October 12, 2018. See it. 

 

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