Film Review: Beautiful Boy

I love the acting of Timothee’ Chalamet, and would go to any film he’s in. Beautiful Boy has gotten mixed reviews; some critics feel the film glosses over the raw puking ugliness of drug addiction. I’d have to say the film was plenty graphic enough for me. This is a wrenching story, based on two real-life memoirs by a father and son battling to save the younger from dying on the streets or a dirty public bathroom floor with a needle in his arm. The acting by Chalamet, Steve Carell, Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan is strong and in Chalamet’s case, brilliant.

The young man played by Chalemet, Nick Sheff, seemingly has everything. He’s good looking, smart, has just gotten into all six colleges to which he applied, has an active extracurricular life as an athlete, actor in school plays, newspaper editor. He probably has a better relationship with his father than most adolescents, and is loved by both his mother and step mother. He has two younger step-siblings who adore him. And, he takes drugs, specifically the highly addictive crystal meth that all but takes over his life.

Addicts lie, steal, manipulate, go over the edge and take others over the edge with them. They rehab, get clean, use again … the cycle repeats over and over. They exhaust everyone. Their struggles wound the people who love them most, even children too young to understand why big brother Nick doesn’t show up for something as important as a seven year old’s swim meet even when he promised.

A friend who’s been a social worker for decades observed not long ago that we parents are only as happy as our least happy child. Nick’s father comes back again and again, trying to save his son — to the clear detriment of his marriage, his other children. His struggle to understand, to find the right intervention, to recover the beautiful boy he knows is somewhere inside the addict, is excruciating to watch.

The film has a resolution of sorts, which we find out in the post script. Nick Sheff is still alive, and clean for the past eight years — one day at a time. That’s remarkable and hopeful in a way, and does little to obviate all that has gone on before.

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