Based on real life memoirs from both father and son, Beautiful Boy chronicles the inspiring yet crushing experience of abuse, recovery and relapse. Beautiful Boy is as chilling as it is powerful as we watch a family torn apart by addiction.
Beautiful Boy treats us to a magnificent performance by Timothée Chalamet as Nick Sheff from start to finish. His performance is a constant reminder that the route to sober is never a straight path, and his painfully realistic portrayal of struggle, anger, fear and addiction is second to none. Steve Carrell is equally as adept as father David Sheff, whilst Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan give equally brilliant, albeit secondary, performances.
Beautiful Boy is a far cry from your usual Hollywood portrayal of addiction which poses ‘giving it up’ as the most difficult part. Instead Beautiful Boy is a tale of trying to ‘stay clean’, and doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of living life sober. Its haunting end gives us a portal into real life by describing real life Nic Sheff as 8 years sober, but never free from addiction.
Being based on memoirs means that Beautiful Boy is a very personal story and focuses heavily on father and son played by Carrell and Chalamet; Ryan and Tierney bleed into the background, as their own heartbreak is only viewed through one or two key scenes. Yet, that’s what Beautiful Boy is, it’s a personal story from two points of view. It’s about a father’s vision of his son versus the reality.
Director, Felix van Groeningen tries to supplement this truth versus reality idea by zipping through time between the father’s picture of past joy and the pain of the present. However, van Groeningen continues this in unnecessary places, allowing Beautiful Boy to become confusing and convoluted. Beautiful Boy also end up about 20/30 minutes too long, trying to fit too much detail with too many jumps, undoubtedly a product of a chaotic editing period for the director, forced to bring in others to help him finish his vision. Nonetheless Beautiful Boy is as incredible as it is depressing. It’s a great film, and a must watch for me, and if I were choosing the Oscars I’d give it an award for tackling a subject in a way that I’ve never seen in Hollywood before.
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