Beautiful Boy

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Verdict: 
7/10 – Convincing performances from Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet are let down by a disjointed narrative.
Release Date: 
Friday, January 18, 2019
Written by: 

Beautiful Boy explores the difficult relationship between a father and his drug-addicted teenage son.

7

When David Sheff released his memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction in 2008, it seemed ripe for adaptation to the big screen.

But for whatever reason, the producers have waited over a decade to bring the story of the strained relationship between a father and his drug-addicted son to cinemas, and in some ways the feature has arrived at the best possible time, considering the opioid crisis currently sweeping through the United States.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, Beautiful Boy also draws on David's son Nic Sheff's own book, entitled Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, with the story kicking off with David (Steve Carell) taking Nic (Timothee Chalamet) to a rehab clinic after he disappeared for two days.

It is soon apparent that the teenager is not only experimenting with alcohol and marijuana but a cocktail of class A drugs including cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth.

After a lengthy stay in rehab, Nic manages to make a full recovery, to the point where he starts taking classes at college, though his stint of sobriety quickly falls through when he finds a bottle of pills in a bathroom cabinet at his new girlfriend's home.

Quickly spiralling into a bout of depression, Nic not only uses meth but heroin too, with one of the most disturbing scenes in the film showing him researching and self-injecting the highly addictive substance into his veins.

The rest of the story frustratingly oscillates between periods in which Nic ends up using, enters rehab and then briefly gets clean again, with the exhausting scenario interspersed with sequences focusing on David's heartbreaking search to find ways to heal his broken boy.

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As expected, Beautiful Boy does offer up an eye-opening account into the life of a person using hard drugs, though it is the exploration of how addiction can cause fractures through families and communities that is emphasised the most.

Not only does Nic use money from his father to buy drugs, but he also steals from his younger half-siblings Daisy and Jasper (Oakley Bull and Christian Convery) and is dismissive of his caring and pragmatic step-mother Karen Barbour (Maura Tierney).

Elsewhere, David's research shows just how accessible drugs are on inner-city streets, and his attendance at AA meetings point to the wider devastation caused by meth and heroin, with parents already mourning their zombie-like children.

Beautiful Boy is by no means an easy watch, with Luke Davies' screenplay adding to the dysfunction, as the constant flashbacks and flash-forwards make it a little difficult to keep up with Nic's current state of mind.

Yet, Chalamet does an admirable effort of portraying an addict, even if he sometimes looks much too pretty for someone meant to be living on the streets, while Steve turns in a quietly confident, and at times very endearing performance, as a father pushed to his moral limits.

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