Beautiful Boy: Forming a Narrative around Addiction

While there are literally hundreds of articles about Timothee Chalamet’s scrawny yet graceful physique and seemingly millions of Steve Carell memes from The Office, I am here today to discuss the duo’s newest film; Beautiful Boy.

Timothee Chalamet broke millions of hearts last year with his breakout heart-throb role as Elio in Call Me by Your Name, but he has turned a page this year to channel the troubled soul of Nic Sheff, a man struggling with crystal meth addiction.  Beautiful Boy follows Nic Sheff and his father, David Sheff (played by Carell) as the addiction plays out in Nic’s adolescence.

Chalamet shows the anger, spontaneity, mania and hopelessness of addiction effortlessly, depicting how addiction can shake any family to its core. Carell plays the overbearing father, trying to take the reins from his son to steer him away from abusing drugs.

While the story of Beautiful Boy is heartbreaking and even at times frustrating, it is important to note how addiction can play out in reality. Beautiful Boy itself is based off of the books Tweak and Beautiful Boy, written by Nic and David Sheff respectively. This was a story that real people lived through, and millions more before and after them.

However, I couldn’t help but consider an underlying aspect of Beautiful Boy: wealth. In the movie, Nic is in and out of different types of rehab, some ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars for treatment. Nic is also between his mother’s (played by Amy Ryan) and father’s houses, of which the parents are most always there doting on him.

via: Cineplex

This is not the case for every addiction story. Millions of addicted individuals do not have the same resources and familial support as the Sheff’s do, leading them to battle addiction on their own: a losing battle for most.

Recently, the opioid epidemic has become the center of attention for addiction in the United States. Policies are shifting away from criminalizing opioid abuse and instead focusing on rehabilitation. While these are important steps, and Nic’s story is important, there are millions of unheard voices in the addiction community. Most of which are incarcerated. The War on Drugs policies have effectively linked low-income minority communities to violence, crime, and crack cocaine. This had led to the discriminant jailing of millions of Black and Latinx communities, people who differed from Nic in race and wealth. The new rehabilitative policy approach to new drug addiction outbreaks is a large leap towards progress, and telling these stories are extremely important. But it becomes a danger when refusing to ensure retroactive action by excluding past historically-punitive and racially charged drug policies, and consequently thousands of lives, from its narrative.