The story of a father trying to help his son deal with his addiction. Beautiful Boy follows David Sheff (Steve Carell) as he struggles to keep his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) away from drugs. But the temptation is always there, and it becomes a battle that puts a strain on the whole family.
This really is an incredible story, one that should be shown to young people in order to show them the dangers of drug use. The movie doesn't shy away from anything, and for that reason it's certainly not a happy movie to watch. As Nic spirals from recreational user to full blown addict, flashbacks involving David's memories of Nic as a young child only amplify the tragic nature of the story. Oddly enough though, the feeling it seemed to conjure the most was disappointment. It's not because the movie was bad, quite the opposite. No, the feeling of disappointment came from the heart-breaking moments in which Nic falls off the wagon.
Through some fantastic performances, and with the help of the books written by David and Nic Sheff, we are able to see the devastating effects addiction can have on a family. Thankfully it's something that many of us will never have to face, and because of that we have very little knowledge of. It's for this reason that the story is so compelling. Timothée Chalamet gives a masterful performance as Nic. He is able to convey the conflicting sides of the troubled young man. On the one hand, you have this intelligent, caring person, a talented writer like his Dad. Then there's the addict who struggles to stay clean, and hates himself for it. Chalamet shows us all of this and more, and it's because of this that you can't help feeling sorry for Nic.
Although, it's the family I feel more sorry for. Seeing the deflating effect Nic's addiction has on all of them is harrowing. Even his younger siblings suffer because of it, even though they aren't really old enough to fully understand what's going on. But the the thing that really sells the story is the relationship between Carell and Chalamet, they genuinely look like father and son. Carell looks drained as David Sheff, no doubt it's a look that's all too familiar to those in a similar situation. It's a testament to Carell's talent that he's able to emote so much. Every time there's bad news, you can see David weighing up his options, preparing himself for the next hurdle. Sometimes having to choose between his son and the rest of his family.
Unfortunately, the powerful performances and the strong bond between the two male leads do come at a cost. With the focus very much on David and Nic, there is little room for Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan. Tierney plays Karen, David's wife and the mother of his other children, whereas Ryan is playing his ex-wife and Nic's mother, Vicki. Ryan's performance is especially notable, in that it is so affecting, despite the fact that we see very little of her. Many of her interactions are over the phone, and we simply hear her voice. Then there's what seems like a major part of the story during which Nic is in rehab nearer his mother, that feels very glossed over. For the most part it feels like they are simply there to listen to David, despite the fact that their performances ably reflect the trauma such relationships would cause.
Beautiful Boy is an honest look at addiction. One that works just as well as an educational tool, as it does a piece of entertainment. The powerful performances demonstrate perfectly the terrible toll that something like this will take on a family. It may not be the happiest story, but it's definitely one worth watching.
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