by Noah Wali
“Beautiful Boy, rather than plumbing the hard emotional depths of addiction, skates on a surface of sentiment and gauzy visual beauty”. (New York Times)
Last weekend my mother and I watched “Beautiful Boy”, an incredibly special film that left us quite speechless. The movie, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, stars Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff, a young adolescent struggling with addiction and his father, David Sheff (Steve Carell), and his journey to save his son.
Groeningen, who first surfaced after his 2016 film about the Belgian nightlife, based the movie on the father-son duo’s two best-selling books: “Beautiful Boy” and “Tweak”.
“David and Nic wrote from their personal experiences of living through recovery and relapses, but also the moments of life’s joy, innocence, and love. They start out thinking that they have the tools to deal with Nic’s addiction, to “solve” it. They don’t, but they learn a lot along the way. As time passes, there are moments where control seems beyond their reach and they experience how the consequences of addiction affect every fiber of their lives,” says Groeningen.
Nic Sheff is a young man living in California with his father, step-mother, and two younger siblings in an upper-class family. Nic seems to have everything going his way –he’s applied to six selective colleges and gotten into all of them – but begins to smoke marijuana to celebrate and lessen an oncoming feeling of depression. Once Nic uses marijuana with his father to celebrate all of his hard work, Nic believes his father to be the “chill” one, and eventually travels down a path he never expected, using harder drugs, going in and out of rehab, promising to get his life together, and continuously failing. The story focuses on the hardships of David, Nic’s father, as he watches his son become someone he isn’t. (I won’t spoil the rest).
The movie, of course, is an important meditation on addiction, and it beautifully portrays the toll addiction takes on loved ones, and how little can sometimes be done to help those suffering from addiction. The cinematography plays an important role in the portrayal of Nic and David’s story, often time acting as a silent film for the audience to take in the present moment and illustrate their own dialogue between characters. Often times, the cinematographer uses film from Nic’s childhood blended in with present Nic, to contrast the livelihood to his steep depression. For example, when things seem to be looking up for Nic and he comes home looking and feeling better, he plays with his younger brother and sister in the family sprinkler, and the scene is incredibly happy. Later on in the film, when Nic relapses, the movie automatically switches to a scene at the family home, where the sprinkler is on, however, no one is present in the scene, and no sounds are audible. The exposure has been lowered significantly, and the power of the scene strikes an emotion of deep despondency within the audience. Other powerful scenes include scenes where Carell (David Sheff) looks through his son’s journal, and Carell’s emotion speaks a thousand words.
Chamalet and Carell truly capture an eye-opening story that is important for all to see. Steve Carell does an amazing job depicting the difficulties raising a family while also caring for the son you’ve had with you through everything. I think both their performances are Oscar-worthy, and if you have free time and are looking for a quality movie, Beautiful Boy is my favorite film right now and you’ll be glad you saw it.
Movie Rating: 10/10