‘Beautiful Boy’ Review: A Tragedy Of Addiction And Family

David Shef (Steve Carrell) is a writer who’s son Nic (Timothee Chalemet) is addicted to Crystal Meth. He worries terribly about his son, frequently leaving his family to go look for him. Nic’s behaviour becomes more extreme, stealing from his family and disappearing for days at a time. David must decide how best to help his wayward son.
The film is an adaptation of two memoirs. That of the father and son. The movie moves between the two narratives, sometimes keeping Nic’s narrative obscure so as to add tension and the feeling of hopelessness for David.
Parts of a beautiful boy play like a horror movie. The addiction resembles a possession narrative. Early warning signs hint menacingly at the horrors to come. A sequence in which David discovers his son’s notebook with his inner turmoil spilled out on the page is sheer pure horror.
The narrative is a fairly conventional view of drugs as a life-ruining force that requires tremendous will to overcome. What’s new is the depiction of relapse. Throughout the film, Nic seems to recover and gain perspective only to lose the battle again and succumb to his toxic addiction. It’s a heartbreaking narrative in which recovery is impossible.
Timothee Chalamet is phenomenal as the self-destructive use. His charm belays the tragedy of his perpetual fall from grace. Steve Carrell brings substantial force to the role of David. He refuses to accept his lack of power and subjects himself and his family to great suffering in his desperate attempts to rescue his beautiful boy.
The hardest message of the film is that of parental responsibility. David must learn that he is unable to save his son, that he must save himself. It’s a hard message in which distrustful support is the end result.
Beautiful Boy is a very troubling watch but a vital warning against the all-consuming dangers of drug use. It’s a black and white view but one that was hard earned and is undoubtedly sincere. It’s a compelling yet horrifying story of betrayal and loss.
Four Stars
Beautiful Boy will have its UK premiere at The London Film Festival on Saturday 13 October 2018 at 18:00.

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