Beautiful Boy Movie Review

           We know Steve Carell as Michael Scott from The Office and Timothée Chalamet broke onto the scene last year as Elio in Call Me By Your Name, but the two actors take on completely different roles in their newest film, Beautiful Boy.

          Beautiful Boy follows the story of Nic Sheff and his father, David Sheff, throughout Nic’s addiction to crystal meth and offers a raw, emotional, and real view of addiction, which is so often overlooked or romanticized in films. Based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy and Tweak by David and Nic respectively, the film does a spectacular job of focusing on Nic’s addiction, while including flashbacks to times in Nic’s childhood that may have contributed to his addiction. Director, Felix Van Groeningen, had the difficult job of choosing which parts of Nic’s journey to include in the film considering the amount of stories that he could have told about this real person’s life. I am currently reading David’s memoir, which spans Nic’s entire life and some of David’s own life before Nic as he too experimented with drugs and blames himself for contributing to Nic’s addiction. Therefore, because Van Groeningen had such a vast amount of content, the magnificence of the film is even more remarkable as he told the entire story of a young man’s experience with addiction and relationship with his father in only two hours. 

            The film itself is so incredibly real that as I watched it I felt enveloped in Nic and David’s story and my heart dropped each time Nic disappeared and David had to go through the heart-wrenching process of calling anyone and everyone to find his beautiful boy. Timothée lost 20 pounds to play Nic Sheff, but even that amazing commitment was minute compared to the rest of his dedication to this role. Truthfully, I saw Timothée playing two characters: the intelligent, charming Nic and the Nic who was addicted to crystal meth. He seamlessly switched between these two characters and changed his chemistry with Steve Carell based on Nic’s current state as well. The two would go from arguing about his drug abuse one scene to reveling in their amazing father-son relationship the next scene when Nic had gotten clean for some amount of time. Therefore, Steve Carell also played two roles, but his overlapped much more than Timothée’s did. While Nic Sheff is two different people in this film because he does not have the power to control himself when he is high, David Sheff switches between being a worried father when Nic is high and/or disappears and being a regular, suburban father spending time with his children when Nic is safe. However, these two father figures overlap as he is constantly worrying about Nic. Any father worries about his son, but, even when Nic is clean, David has the voice in the back of his mind telling him that this can’t last and, unfortunately, he is often right.

            What I found most compelling about the film was the sense of certainty that I felt at certain points, even when I, like David, had a voice telling me that the perfect happiness of a given scene could not last. The first few times that Nic came to his dad and promised he would get clean and then did, I knew it would not last for too long. However, at certain points when Nic played with his younger siblings or participated in class discussions in college, I felt, or more accurately hoped, that this would be the turning point for him. I thought to myself, "Relapse is part of recovery, and he has relapsed, so now it is time for his recovery", but Felix Van Groeningen made the amazingly profound decision to leave the audience with no clear ending. Though I thought certain happy, sober moments would be the end of this story, the true ending shocked me and is still on my mind over a week after seeing the film. The final scene shows Nic and David hugging as Nic cries into his father’s arms following two hours of trials and tribulations and even David’s refusal to help Nic anymore until he got clean. Because addiction is so often cyclical and follows a person throughout his/her life, the choice to leave the film without a clear ending of what will happen to Nic represents how unpredictable addiction can be. Nic Sheff is thankfully alive and sober today and both he and his father have noted that addiction is a one-day at a time process, so leaving the movie on a settled note would be inaccurate to the truth as addiction never truly settles. 

            Beyond the obvious reasons for seeing this film such as the stellar cast and reviews, this film is a must see because of the message that it tells. In a time when almost everyone can say they have been touched by addiction, it is important that true stories of addiction are told and we take the time to appreciate these stories for what they are: honest. Beautiful Boy is the most honest film I have ever seen and no other film has touched me and captivated me in the same way and I truly don’t think any film ever will.