2018 R 2h
Biography, Drama
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

See it if you enjoy: Drama, Biographies, Addiction, Oscar Movies, Cultural Issues.
Manchester by the Sea, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dallas Buyers Club.

Skip it if you prefer: Fun Movies, Blockbusters, Happy Endings, Romantic Comedies

The Good:

Based on the memoirs of a real father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy requires stellar performances by the two main actors as well as the supporting cast and it delivers just that. There are moments in this movie where I felt like I was watching Steve Carell with his son, which is obviously the point, but many times actors miss the mark. Being a father myself, there are subtle moments that stand out. The way a parent looks at their child, these tiny moments they themselves will almost never be aware of. The way a parent must put on a show for their children appearing strong and in control of a situation only to be followed by brokenness the moment they are not watching. Even from the opening scene, it is clear Carell is doing some of his best work here portraying David Sheff, a caring father doing everything he can to raise his son to be a healthy, content, and successful young man. It is one thing to deliver a line, but the real acting takes place in the silence. The camera stays on Carell for the opening scene, allowing us to see the defeat in Sheff’s eyes, leaving us wondering how this man got here. Timothée Chalamet accompanies Carell’s solid performance with an Oscar worthy showing of his own. He portrays Nic Sheff in a way that is beyond believable. The struggle of his addiction becomes a part of us and we struggle right along with him. The icing on the cake is the supporting cast. Many times, a film of this nature will get the leads completely right but ignore the necessity of a strong supporting cast. Even the child actors in this movie bring a realism to the story that makes us aware of all the impacts addiction has on everyone connected to a person. We see not only the effect on Nic and his Father, but we see the pain it causes his mother, step-mother, and siblings. What this movie does best is educate. Requiem for a Dream is one of the first movies that made me feel the hopelessness of addiction, but there was still some amount entertainment in the stylistic approach of that film. Beautiful Boy keeps the tricks to a minimum. There was never a time I felt like I was being forced into an emotion. There were never moments the story felt tweaked by Hollywood writers. It all felt very real and very sad. You become a part of this family and join in the repeated defeat that comes with addiction. There are moments in this film that you are rooting for Nic to make the right choices and you join in the defeat, the regret, and the shame. There are moments you relate to the father and are left to question Nic’s possible relapses. The way the movie at times never actually answers those questions directly or drags a scene out with hope really puts the addiction into perspective. The cinematography, writing, and score all accompany this movie’s acting and enhance it. At times the score feels odd, perhaps too uplifting during a tragic scene or vice versa, but it is clear this is purposeful, and it works well. You understand on one level how damaging these drugs are to Nic and yet you also understand how in the moment he needs them and enjoys them disregarding logic. Overall, this movie accomplishes what it sets out to do, to educate the world on the devastating and often overlooked reality of addiction.

The Bad:

It is difficult to find the bad in this movie. Perhaps if you are going to the cinema for the sole purpose of entertainment or to escape from the real world, this movie is not for you. It is real and visceral and painful. It does not hold back any punches. The only other minor issue I had was some of the nonlinear storytelling. There are scenes that take a minute to adjust to, realizing where you are on the timeline and that felt a little distracting. Overall, it was done well, and the flashbacks were laced into the father’s perspective in a way that works. There is a consistent visual of the then and now, the question of, “How did my son get here?” This works for most of the film, but I did find myself briefly confused at times. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Nic was portrayed by four different actors by my count. I understand there is a big difference between a six-year-old and an eight-year-old, but I feel the variety of actors distracted me at times.

The Ugly:

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About The Author


Managing Director of Smokestack Theatre Company