Beautiful Boy (2018) – Review

Beautiful Boy is now playing in theaters.

By Rachel M.

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. Told mostly from David’s point of view, in a role well-played by Steve Carell, viewers get a true sense of what it means to be the parent of an addict. The hope, the frustration, the hopelessness, the guilt, and the anger are all beautifully portrayed in this very realistically told film. Despite the week script (written by Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen, who also directed the film) which doesn’t deeply explore any family member’s POV with compelling dialogue, a gripping story emerges.

The movie interweaves scenes from Nic’s childhood throughout the current tale of desperation so that we can understand the family history and Nic’s relationship with his father. These scenes not only provide backstory but make it clear how addiction can really happen to anyone. Besides a divorce, Nic (Timothee Chalamet) had a very typical childhood and a good relationship with his father and stepmother (Maura Tierney). They also depict the start of Nic’s experimentation with drugs – first with marijuana and then progressively getting more serious and destructive, eventually leading to a crystal meth addiction. The audience can wonder along with David, “How in the world did this happen to us?” Rather than try to place blame for Nic’s addiction, Beautiful Boy takes a clear-eyed and intimate look at a family grappling with a devastating and growing phenomenon. “In the past — and to some extent, still —addiction has been perceived as a failure of character or a result of abuse and neglect,” says van Groeningen. “Addicts were kept at a distance. But we’ve come to understand that this is something that can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

The present storyline tells the sad tale of a young man who cannot escape his addiction. In and out of rehab, Nic tries a few times to quit and even stays clean for over a year at one point. We see the toll his actions take on his parents and on his two younger half-siblings. Together with his family, the viewer begins to lose hope that Nic can beat this, as we watch him relapse and sink further into the abyss.

While Carell’s and Chalamet’s performances were excellent, I found myself wanting more from the film. The film lacks a stirring monologue or a deep conversation between father and son, some scene that might provide more insight into the characters’ thoughts and emotions. It’s a tepid exploration of an issue that should have wrought even more emotion.

I give Beautiful Boy a B+.