SYN Reviews: ‘Beautiful Boy’
Review by April Austen
Preview screening provided by publicists
Beautiful Boy is a heartbreaking film from start to finish that follows a family battling to cope with their teenage son’s serious drug addiction. The film is based on a best-selling pair of memoirs, ‘Beautiful Boy’ by David Scheff and ‘Tweak’ by his son Nic Sheff. It chronicles the ongoing cycle of survival, relapse, and recovery that addiction traps its victims in.
The majority of Beautiful Boy centres on David (Steve Carell) and his second wife, Nic’s stepmother, Karen’s (Maura Tierney) experience coping with having an 18-year-old, drug-addicted son. Nic (Timothée Chalamet, of Call Me By Your Name) continually runs away from home for days at a time, before coming home looking sick and exhausted as the effects of the drugs wear off. The film focuses on Nic and his family’s attempts to overcome his addiction, occasionally jumping back to Nic’s childhood to paint a whole picture of who he is. Throughout the film, Nic spends time in numerous rehab clinics, in college, on the street and at a friend’s house. Continually, Nic seems eager to get his life back on track, but each time he seems to be getting better, he relapses and spirals out of control again.
Director Felix Van Groeningen does a beautiful job of humanising drug addiction. Through an exceptional performance by Chalamet and the inclusion of scenes of Nic as a sweet young boy (Kue Lawrence and Jack Dylan Grazer), the audience easily connects with Nic and subsequently has to view addiction on a more personal level.
Chalamet’s casting was a perfect decision and he creates a character that is loveable despite his flaws. He shifts between Nic’s various personalities and moods with clarity and ease. The character is so natural and real that it is impossible not to care for him.
From the beginning of the film, Nic’s father is portrayed as loving, supportive and open-minded. Carell is exquisite at bringing these characteristics to the screen and presenting a father who is desperate to help his son. He is equally wonderful at portraying David’s anger and despair as Nic relapses time and time again. The quality of his performance forces the audience to share in his emotions which makes the film even more powerful.
Written for screen by Australian Luke Davis (Lion), Beautiful Boy gives an open and honest portrayal of all sides of addiction. The destruction and suffering that it causes are shown from the perspective of the addict as well as from the family and friends who try to help. The film makes it clear how drugs ruin so many lives and what a waste that is. Nic has now been eight years sober, yet so much of his time has been spent desperately trying to buy more drugs and feeling sad, scared and alone.
This film is wonderfully made and needed to be to do justice to such an emotional and saddening story. It gives viewers a real sense of how complex and hard breaking an addiction is. An interview between David and a psychiatrist explains the neurological effects of drugs and the changes that occur in the brain that make addiction so easy to succumb to. It was great to have this included in the film to help people to sympathise with addicts and understand the lack of control they have over their addiction.
Beautiful Boy is a story that is becoming all-too-common. According to the film, addiction is the largest killer of people under 50 in America and yet addiction research is vastly underfunded. Films like this highlight how cures for addiction cannot be one-size-fits-all and that it is essential we search for new treatment methods.
This is a beautifully made film with an incredibly important story, but a tough one to sit through. Before watching, be aware it is confronting and depressing but it’s a story you need to know.
Beautiful Boy will be in cinemas from October 25th.
Anybody needing help can contact one of the following services:
Reach Out (au.reachout.com)
Odyssey House (www.odyssey.org.au)
Kids Help Line (kidshelpline.com.au or 1800 55 1800)