Beautiful Boy is an impressive and comprehensive look at the effects of drug addiction, told through a father/son relationship over many years time. Of all the things the film does well, it’s impressive that the film is able to cover the complicated series of relapse and depression that follows serious addiction. There are some odd technical moments that slightly weight it down, but Beautiful Boy succeeds primarily due to the terrific performances by Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, who feel like an authentic duo onscreen.
Based on a true story, the film follows David Sheff (Carell), a father who attempts to help his son Nicholas (Chalamet) through years of drug addiction and relapse. Carell is as good as he’s ever been here, conveying a sense of helplessness and frustration as Nic’s struggles seemingly never end. Chalamet is great here too; his character is given qualities and humanity beyond that of his addiction, which makes his eventual relapses all the tougher to watch. There are key emotional moments, but at no point does it feel like either actor is overcooking there performances.
The film spans multiple years of time, and while it does a good job in general of letting the audience know where the story takes place, there are moments when it becomes slightly hard to follow. While it’s clear that the film’s flashbacks and editing it meant to construct thematic parallels, there are points when the nonlinear nature is slightly off putting. My only main issue is the music; many of the music cues and song choices feel out of place, and there are points when the score is overbearing, although the final moments are nicely played as the film ends on a poignant note.
Beautiful Boy has a hard story to tell, and it’s often a hard story to watch, as we both feel David’s frustration at his son’s inability to cope, yet sympathize with Nic as he attempts to get sober. Thankfully the film doesn’t try to add elements that would distract from the story, although there’s levity in seeing this great family dynamic and enjoying the sparse moments of happiness. It’s an impressive feature and one that people should see, giving a more rounded take on a subject that’s infrequently talked about with this much depth. Grade: B+