The emptying theatre after Beautiful Boy’s credits began to roll was haunting. Sniffles, wrappers, and shuffling of feet were heard as families filed out of the Ritz Five, but nobody spoke. Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix van Groeningen, Timothee Chalamet portrays Nic Sheff, the son of David Sheff, a famous author.
The movie jumps back and forth between past, future, and present as David watches his son struggle with addiction. It begins in the present, where father David is panicked when his son, Nic, goes missing. Nic returns home soon, clearly not acting like his normal self. He confesses to his father that he was away from home doing drugs and that he would agree to get help at rehab. Soon enough, the rehab center calls David to let him know that his son went missing. It turned out that Nic had escaped to go buy more drugs.
The rest of the movie is a wash, rinse, and repeat of this pattern: Nic goes back to rehab, comes home and appears to be better, but then relapses. Each time he relapses, his addiction only gets worse.
The movie ends once Nic nearly overdoses in a public restroom in New York City. He gets hospitalized and the film ends with a shot of him crying on his father’s lap. Soon afterwards, the credits reveal to the audience that it was a true story based on two books: One being Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and the other Tweak by Nic Sheff.
The music choice in the movie is excellent. It serves a purpose to nearly deafen you during extremely harrowing scenes – the music is so loud and jarring that you physically feel the pain of the character on screen.
The film has a great mix of tender parental moments and raw, graphic scenes depicting drug use and its consequences. These scenes tend to be littered throughout the movie as opposed to the film as a whole being perceived as so.
As for the structure of the movie, the plot is very repetitive. I can assume that this serves the purpose of accurately representing how victims of addiction and their families feel about the situation. Every time Nic seems to have gotten better and finally freed himself from his addictions – everything comes crashing down and you feel hopeless again.
I can only imagine this is how families of drug addicts feel when they’re trying to help their loved ones recover, and this structure adds to the immersion that movie puts you in. It almost forces you to feel the same rise and crash that Nic’s family feels watching him.
For me, this effect was intensified by the performance of the two main actors. As a big fan of both The Office and Call Me by Your Name, I was elated when I heard that Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell were starring in a movie together as father and son. Carrell’s paternal manner and Chalamet’s angsty youthfulness made for a great team.
Van Groeningen created a film that has a good heart. It serves a purpose to tug at your heartstrings while also teaching an important lesson about the dangers of addiction. It’s a movie that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to victims of drug addiction or their close family members simply because it’s extremely graphic and could trigger very painful memories. As for those who want an educational and heartfelt albeit distressing film, Beautiful Boy is an excellent choice.