Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.
Steve Carell must be one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood at the moment, as ‘Beautiful Boy’ is the third film this month where he features in a major role after ‘Welcome to Marwen’ and ‘Vice’. In this film he is David Sheff, a father trying to cope with a son (Timothee Chalamet) caught up in a serious drug addiction. Based on a pair of memoirs, ‘Beautiful Boy’ is a raw, unflinching look at a father-son relationship tested by addiction, with Carell and Chalamet delivering moving, vulnerable performances in the central roles.
The film is directed by Felix Van Groeningen, who helmed the outstanding Oscar-nominated ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ and this is another tearjerker designed to work on your emotions. The film moves between different periods in the lives of the Sheff family, from when Nic was a young kid to the film’s present when he is estranged from the family, and this fluid approach to narrative doesn’t help the film’s pacing. Whilst the filmmaking is earnest, I found my interest waning for long stretches and as a result the key dramatic moments don’t hit as hard as they should when they arrive. Carell and Chalamet are both outstanding, but they are doing all the heavy lifting that the script doesn’t do. Maura Tierney is also good as David’s current partner and it’s always great to see Bubbles from ‘The Wire’ (Andre Royo) in a small part, even if he’s playing a familiar character.
Through David, the film attempts to understand the nature of drug addiction and how it affects those around you, and the tone is empathetic and non-judgmental, and at times it’s deeply affecting. The musical choices are well selected and enhance the emotion of certain scenes but I didn’t find ‘Beautiful Boy’ to be as engaging as it was aiming to be, despite the best efforts of all involved.
Directed By: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton and LisaGay Hamilton