More than anything else, Beautiful Boy is made significant by Chalamet’s simply incredible performance
The difficult nature of adult-child relationships holds a particularly poignant power that other connections will never quite amass the ability to match. As a cross generational divide, and one of love, these relationships become fascinating to break down and analyse, often leaving behind enthralling and provoking family dramas.
Beautiful Boy is no different in its exploration of the lives of David (Steve Carell) and Nic Sheff (Timothee Chalamet), a freelance writer and his student son who struggles with addiction and alcoholism. The feature follows Nic as he dips in and out of rehab looking for answers and fixes to his difficult emotions, and the impact that has on David and their family as he tries to help his son through something he knows nothing about.
Features about drug addiction often suffer from an overly dark nature and a thirst for realism or sadness – Beautiful Boy feels as if it wants something completely different. Drugs, specifically Crystal Meth in the instance of Nic Sheff’s experience, have a profound effect on the wider family and community of those around the abuser, and that often goes unexplored.
Trainspotting is perhaps seen as the ultimate film around the subject, focusing only on the abusers themselves, very rarely looking to the wider families involved. Beautiful Boy wants something else, creating a touching drama on the impact on the family, as even more of a focus than the abuser. There’s an understanding of how drugs affect those who care, and that comes across with a particularly heartfelt nature.
Carell and Chalamet combine to produce this empathetic tone, an affecting partnership that supplies a strong journey for Beautiful Boy to track. It sometimes feels more emotional than real, but in this case that feels right. Director Felix van Groeningen wants the family dynamic to remain strong, even when the characters can’t, supplying a continuous sympathetic overtone.
Beautiful Boy is a feature of strong will and a steady understanding of family dramas. There’s a layer of humanity and a layer of resistance above the usual drug themes, and that makes it feel both original and effecting. Yet more than anything else, Beautiful Boy is made significant by Chalamet’s simply incredible performance.
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