REVIEW: ‘Beautiful Boy’ is a painful portrait of addiction

When I picked up a copy of David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy earlier this summer, I knew I was in for…what I like to call an uplifting tragedy. Uplifting tragedies are those stories that serve to break your heart for the right reasons and have you walking out of the theater with a new perspective.

Beautiful Boy — the first English-language film from director Felix Van Groeningen — follows the real life story of David and Nic Sheff, a father and son who have a back and forth struggle due to Nic’s addiction to crystal meth. As addiction takes over Nic’s life, his father learns that this human being he thought perfect is broken just like the rest of us. 

This is one of those films where it feels like director just sat the camera down and said “go” and let the actors just give it their all. I can’t brag enough on the vulnerable and very genuine performances delivered by both Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. 

It’s finally much easier to see Carell as a dramatic actor after this turn as a troubled, but concerned father. Chalamet is a much younger, but equally as mature actor. He is believable to a scary level on how accurately he can play not just a junkie, but a person in crisis. 

I found the editing a little off in the beginning of the film, but as the story progressed, the directorial choices began to make more sense as Nic delved even deeper into his disease. 

The tension seeps deep through this slow burn story with the inability to peer around the corner and see if Nic will relapse once again after getting clean twice…er, three times (I can’t remember). 

The film leaves a lasting message about the dangers of addiction, how it affects everyday families and how the reality of this epidemic is America will only grow worse until something can be done. Thankfully, Nic has been clean for eight years. I wish him a lifetime of being clean and happiness in the future. I can’t wait to pick up his book “Tweak” that is out on shelves now and discover the other sides of this story. 

Beautiful Boy does the best it can to prove that addiction is a disease. It goes as far to say that simply loving someone can’t be enough to kick this affliction. It shows that the way to answer to addiction isn’t always easy, but with the right help, support and a will to change, the goal of being clean can be achievable.