Beautiful Boy, rated R
Beautiful Boy, showing now on Amazon Prime, is a well-written and acted film based on the real-life heartbreaking relationship between a father and his teenage son, who is battling drug addiction. The film is directed by Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown), who wrote the screenplay with Oscar nominee and recovering addict, Luke Davies (Lion), based on the books Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and Tweak by Nic Sheff. Because of this, we experience the story from both of their perspectives.
David Sheff, played by Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, The Office) is a writer who lives in San Francisco. The film opens with him meeting with Dr. Brown, played by Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People), trying to find out more about meth addiction. The film then flashes back a year, a technique used often in the film to tell the backstory of David and now 18-year-old Nic Sheff, played by Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird), who received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. Nic had been a happy and high performing high school student who enjoyed to read and draw. But now he is dealing with a dark hole, fed by his addiction to drugs and alcohol. We see in flashbacks that he and his father had shared a marijuana cigarette in the past, and that Nic’s drug addiction, which started with marijuana, has now progressed to include LSD, heroin and meth.
David is divorced from Vicki, played by Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, The Office). He now lives with second wife Karen, played by Golden Globe winner Maura Tierney (The Affair, The Office), and they have two adorable young children Jasper, played by Christian Convery, and Daisy, played by Oakley Bull.
David and Karen convince Nic to enter into an inpatient rehab program. The head of the rehab facility gives David hope, but is not honest about the success rate of curing meth addicts. This begins Nic’s ongoing battle to beat meth addiction, a battle that completely consumes his caring but controlling father, who for the most part is not present for Karen and their two young children. David desperately wants to help his son beat his addiction, wonders what he could have done differently, and at times both he and Nic’s mother Vicki, in frustration, blame each other for his troubles.
Themes include family, and specifically the relationship between a father and son, drug and alcohol addiction, recovery and relapse, trying to save someone, hope, pain and disappointment. Content concerns include a large amount of adult language, realistic depiction of addiction and the impact on an individual and their family, and one scene of sexuality (no nudity).
The cinematography is by Ruben Impens (The Broken Circle Breakdown). The title of the film comes from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. David Scheff had interviewed Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1980, just months before Lennon was murdered. Music is an important aspect in the film, not only in the music that Nic and his father liked, but also in the musical score.
The film features some excellent acting performances, led by Chalamet and Carell. Tierney is strong in the difficult role of Nic’s stepmother, and Ryan is solid in a smaller role as Nic’s mother. Nic’s addict girlfriend Lauren is played by Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Justified), and his rehab sponsor Spencer is played by Andre Royo (Empire).
Beautiful Boy is a heart-breaking and emotional film that features some excellent acting performances. The film also includes some content concerns and is certainly not an easy film to watch, but I believe is an important film depicting the impact of addiction on an individual and their family.