Movie review: Beautiful Boy

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The frontispiece of the new film “Beautiful Boy” depicts Carell and Chalamet in their starring roles as father and son. Photo courtesy of Amazon studios.

If you’ve been on the hunt for a movie that will surely rip out your heart, chew it up and spit it right back at you, look no further than “Beautiful Boy.” Even though the film is two hours of excruciating emotional pain, it is stunning, incredibly well done, and worthy of watching for any that can stomach it.

The gripping story of a father-son relationship corrupted by the tenacious grip of drug addiction poignantly presents an authentic portrait of the true events by which it was inspired. As an audience member, I was emotionally distraught walking out of the theater; nonetheless, by the next morning I was looking for upcoming showtimes and feeling like that Michael Scott quote that says: “No question about it, I am ready to get hurt again.”

Speaking of Michael Scott, one can’t find a more contrasting figure than Steve Carell’s role in “Beautiful Boy.” A supportive father of three children, a freelance writer and a loving husband to his second wife, Carell’s character David Sheff evokes genuine sympathy from the audience.

David tries time and time again to guide his son through his journey with recovery and offers him as much support and unconditional love as he possibly can— at least, of course, until he ultimately must let go. David’s relationship with his son, Nic,— a meth-addicted eighteen-year-old played by Academy Award Nominee Timothée Chamalet — beats the stigma that all drug-addicted teens come from either destitute or excessively strict families. In fact, David’s role as an evidently caring and understanding father raises questions about the true nature of addiction — what causes it, how much of it is due to predispositions, and how a family can best deal with it.

Chamalet, Hollywood’s current darling, presents a picture of addiction through the likeable and pitiable role of Nic. At only 18 years old, he is a talented writer, a devoted brother and full of potential. The film’s nonlinear structure is effective in evoking sympathy for Nic as it constantly swaps timelines to remind the audience of the genuine young man he once was.

By contrast, his drug-induced outbursts are made even more shocking and terrible, as his true self appears corroded and forever lost to the power of addiction. His game of yo-yo with recovery grips the hearts of the audience and breaks them each time he relapses. The soundtrack and the Northern California setting bring a combined sense of home and scenic beauty to the screen, and the reoccurring locations of the diner and the airport create a cyclical effect that mirrors the nature of recovery; as one of the characters states, “relapse is a part of recovery.”

The ending,without giving too much away, offers a glimpse of hope while still maintaining its realistic portrayal. True life doesn’t always have a perfect cookie cutter ending, and the film’s narrative works to emulate this notion.

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