Hot Take: Dark, depressing true story of David, son Nic Sheff and meth addiction with great performances from Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. Bring tissues.
Once you read the synopsis of Beautiful Boy, you’ll realize you’re in for a depressing tale. While the subjects of this tale have obviously lived long enough to pen concurrent memoirs of their battle with (for son Nic) addiction and subsequent dealing with (for dad David) a child addicted to meth, Beautiful Boy is a heavy story with very few bright moments throughout. It’s an accurate portrayal of the cycle of addiction that many go through when dealing with a family member addicted to drugs or alcohol. Often mentioned, the film focuses on relapse and it’s role in recovery as well as the difficulty it can pose to constantly care for someone who only really cares about their next high. It would be lying if I described the film as following the ups and downs of addiction and recovery as there aren’t enough ups present to give them film credit for that side of the tale. Instead, Beautiful Boy dwells on the downs and while it makes for a compelling tale, it’s hard to say it’s an enjoyable watch as it’s just so damn depressing.
The film opens with David Sheff (Steve Carell), a prominent journalist, discovering his son Nic (Timothee Chalamet) is missing. Two days later, Nic reappears with signs that he has been using drugs heavily. David immediately takes Nic to rehab where the hope is he’ll get clean. As progress is made, Nic is transferred to a halfway house and given more freedom. Eventually, Nic disappears again and David finds him on the street. Thus, the cycle of David and son Nic’s life together throughout Nic’s addiction begins.
It’s tough to watch as David gives everything to his son at the detriment to his relationship with his wife (Nic’s stepmother) and their two children (Nic’s stepbrothers). While there are fleeting moments of happiness shown, they are typically shown while David is going through great difficulty in trying to understand his son’s addiction (right down to the point of trying the drug himself) or in dealing with his out of control, strung out kid. In and out of rehab, running from home, it’s impossible to imagine the pain of what David had to deal with and the stranglehold addiction had on Nic but the performances of Carell and Chalamet are top notch giving a genuine feel to the heaviness of the film.
That being said, it’s hard to recommend Beautiful Boy. It’s one of the most depressing films of the year and it’s obvious where the film is going as most true stories are. This strips some of the drama from the film and keeps it from reaching the heights it might possibly reach if it were based on fictional characters. Also, it’s not groundbreaking in the sense that the topic of addiction is well covered in the annals of cinema. It’s still a compelling watch and worth a look if you’re up for shedding a few tears and being immersed in David and Nic’s lengthy struggle with addiction for two hours.
This great mood you’re in has to go away now.
You’re so averse to depressing films, you sometimes find slapstick comedy too serious.