Beautiful Boy – A Review Haiku

Written by Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen
Directed by Felix van Groeningen

SYNOPSIS

A father struggles to help his teenage son battle drug addiction.

HAIKU REVIEW

Powerful Acting;
Repetitive Story Arcs;
Flawed But Quite Moving.

GRADE: B

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Addiction is a brutal cycle whose effects reach far and wide, tearing apart lives with precision, whether the process is painfully quick or dreadfully slow. It takes no prisoners and at a time where overdose deaths are consistently rising, it seems like nobody is safe. Beautiful Boy, adapted from twin memoirs of a father and son struggling with the latter’s addictions, shows a well-off teenager with good grades and college aspirations collapse under the weight of the drugs that have taken hold of him. It is sad, uncomfortable, incredibly heartfelt and very well made.

Most of the praise the film earns will go to its two leads, Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, and rightfully so. Their dynamic is so endearing that you ache for the father for what his son puts him through, but also retain sympathy for the son whose choices are destroying his family. Yes, those choices are entirely his, but in the quiet moments he maintains a glimmer of hope in his eye, a continuous reminder that he wants to change, even if he feels powerless to do so. It is that (possibly false) hope that leads his father down the path of hopefulness, determined to fix his son’s problems despite the impossible nature of the task. Carell is wonderful as the father, dealing with the waves of emotions from someone in his position and portraying them beautifully. It is a character that a lot of people will relate to and he handles the task with grace. Chalamet will likely go on to earn his second straight Oscar nomination, showcasing a broken soul capable of just as much love as self-destruction. He is wounded but doesnt want your sympathy. When he falls to his lowest depths, we are more inclined to shake our heads than feel any kind of anger towards him, and it’s a credit to Chalemet for his fierce performance.

There are some gorgeous shots, my favorite of which included the Golden Gate Bridge at a pivotal moment in Nic’s life. The moments of heavy drug use show seediness and desperation without coming across as shock value. We are getting a window into two people dealing with opposite sides of this fight, and fain an understanding of both. We don’t need to be reminded of how shady doing drugs can be, we are here for the family dynamics and those scenes are when the film shines the brightest. There are some great moments of licensed music used in the film to highlight the emotional undertones, including songs from the likes of Mogwai, Nirvana and Sigur Ros, and they are very effective. Much of the rest of the film is silent, letting the words and faces of the actors tell the story themselves. The film is well-directed, but a few questionable decisions hold it back from being better. There is a repetitive nature to the story and while that is certainly what families in these situations go through, it can make for a bit of a trudge through the snow when watching a movie. A few quick plot points and ideas are touched on and not expanded upon, and a tighter runtime with some of those issues explored on a deeper level would have elevated it. This is a heavy film that isn’t likely to be revisited by most, but should be seen once, even if only for the acting.

 


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