Drug abuse. It’s a sensitive yet important topic of conversation as we see more and more lives taken far too soon by the unforgiving nature of drug addiction. With Belgian director Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy he not only opens up the conversation but reveals the raw, unfiltered truth of what it’s like to struggle with addiction. There's no sugarcoating or happy endings here; it’s all brutal honesty about the destructive power these addictions can have on not only the person involved, but everyone around them as well, and even when it seems as though things are going straight, the slightest of deviations can have disastrous effects. By the time the credits are rolling, Groeningen has delivered an absolute resounding gut punch that is sure to resonate with many audience members, especially those who have been affected or known people who have been affected by substance abuse.
Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, Beautiful Boy is based on the pair of best-selling memoirs from father and son David (Steve Carell) and Nic (Timothee Chalamet) Sheff that chronicle Nic’s struggle with addiction to crystal meth. As David attempts to empathize with Nic’s situation, both scientifically and psychological, Nic goes through a cycle of rehab then relapse then repeat that ultimately drags his family further into devastation.
Coming from someone who is not accustomed to crying often during movies, Beautiful Boy had me in absolute tears by the end and emotionally effected me far after I had left the theater in a way I hadn’t experienced in some time. Groeningen should without a doubt be applauded for his decision to focus on realism (much like with Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea), but Boy is a film truly carried by its performances with the entire cast at the top of their game, but with superb standouts from Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. Both performances are some of the best of the year and will earn their place among the nominees come awards season. Carell plays it subtle but in such a genuine fatherly manner. He goes to the ends of the earth, like any parent would, to help his child recover, but also has to cope with the fact that he can only do so much and in the end, it’s on his son. This difficult truth is depicted in arguably the most devastating scene in the film in which Carell breaks down in such raw, honest emotion. As for Chalamet, the kid is continuously proving himself to be a world class talent, and with him being at such a young age, it’s hard to fathom how much better he’s going to be ten years from now. He completely immerses himself into the mindset and mannerisms of a drug addict in this heartbreaking performance. Watching Nic go through the tragic roller coaster in an attempt at recovery is both inspiring, yet difficult to take in at times. This fluctuation of emotions falls all on the shoulders of Timothee Chalamet who convincingly excels.
While individually Carell and Chalamet are terrific, it’s their dynamic together that ultimately sells the bond between them. Through the skillful weaving of past and present moments, we see both the good times and bad and further adds to the overall impact of Nic traveling down this dark path. The relationship between David and Nic is relatable, real and the ultimate crux of the story held brilliantly in place by Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet’s exceptional chemistry. You’re going to want to bring the tissue box for this one.
Toronto International Film Festival Review: Beautiful Boy
Production Companies: Amazon Studios, Plan B Entertainment,
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Steve Carell, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan
Rated R, 111 Min
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