Wednesday, February 06, 2019
Review | Beautiful Boy

Review | Beautiful Boy

To kick off film reviews for 2019, i'm starting by chatting about Beautiful Boy - director Felix Van Groeningen's English language debut. The movie is based on the best-selling memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, played by Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet. First of all I would say this movie is by no means going to leave you feeling uplifted, but it's not exactly a story that can be sugar coated. Beautiful Boy tells the tale of young boy, Nic, who struggles with drug addiction, particularly to meth, and the effects this has on his family and throughout his life. It's a somber story but an inspiring and important one that is told so very (beautiful)ly indeed. In just over two hours you see Nic go from a little boy into an adult, then back again, toing-froing between rehab and relapse, to moments of his childhood and moments of recovery.

The film largely focuses on the father-son relationship and the lengths David goes to to save his son from his addictions and spiraling further. It's seen early on in the film just how close a bond the two have and just how unbreakable that bond is. Time and time again, David picks his son back up, reaches out for help, takes him to rehab and quite literally never gives up and if that doesn't get a lump in your throat, I don't know what will. The film regularly uses flashbacks to give viewers a way into David's mind, as he recalls the precious memories from Nic's childhood and how at one time, things were, at least on the surface, perfect. The film raises the concern of most parents in difficult situations when they begin to question their actions, whether or not they raised their child right, what they could have done better or what they could have prevented.

It was hard to pinpoint in the film for me, the factors that contributed to Nic's downward spiral into drug addiction, much like life, you never really know what's going on inside someone's mind. The only thing that stuck out for me was a scene at the airport, Nic is saying farewell to his dad, to stay with his mum and shows difficulty in leaving his dad, whom he holds such a strong bond with.  We also see a scene where David is rifling through Nic's room and discovers his notebook filled with doodles and drawings in black which reflect the mental pain Nic is going through.

What feels like several times in the film, Nic goes into rehab, recovers then relapses, again and again. It accurately portrayed the realities for an addict like Nic, when there is always this constant juggle with battling the addiction and succumbing to it, which Chalamet plays to a T. It is frustrating to watch Nic fall back into the trap of drugs, almost as frustrating as it must have been for his father in real life. 

The most painful scene (spoiler alert) is when for one of the final times, Nic calls up his dad and for the first time ever in the whole film, David has to finally refuse to give him help because he feels he can no longer support him. This scene was so heartbreaking to watch as you could imagine the pain felt on both sides when this was said...however, David does actually help Nic again which seems to be the final push that is needed, as the credits role, we are told Nic Sheff (irl) has been 8 years sober. 

Aesthetically, both in cinematography and soundtrack, the film also ticks all those boxes. The playlist features the likes of Nirvana, where we are shown a flashback scene to Nic as a young boy and his father rocking out in the car and other tracks by Bowie, Sigur Rós and John Lennon. There's a wide range of throwback songs to cinematic instrumental injections thus the film kind of flows like a beautiful yet painful poem about life, family, relationships and the importance on support in mental health and drug addiction.