TIFF 2018: Beautiful Boy Review17 September 2018 / by Nicole Di Donato (author)
Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet give raw, convincing performances in the heartbreaking two-hour drama Beautiful Boy.
The film is based on two memoirs written by San Francisco journalist David Sheff and his oldest son Nic, that chronicle Nic’s struggle with drug addiction and the family’s attempts to help him.
The film wastes no time showing the audience the dark and gritty reality of David and Nic’s lives. Beautiful Boy opens with a scene of David speaking to a doctor about Nic’s meth addiction. He asks the doctor two questions: “What is this doing to my son and how can I help him?” These questions are explored and answered throughout the film.
The film is told from the perspective of David, who is constantly tortured by memories of when Nic was a happy, young boy. Although it is never said, it is clear that David wonders if Nic’s addiction is somehow his fault.
Beautiful Boy shows David coming to terms with the troubling concept that relapse is part of recovery. This is a phrase that is repeated multiple times in the film, often during dark and unsettling moments.
Chalamet gives a raw and convincing performance as Nic. He portrays the character with a haunting desperation, selling the character's arrogant surface while also showcasing the agony beneath. Although the film centers around David, Chalamet is the one who shines from start to finish. Carell delivers a solid performance as David, though his best moments are all comedic.
Since the film focuses primarily on the David and Nic’s relationship, it sometimes feels repetitive and predictable: David is going to worry about his son and do everything he can to save him and Nic is going to relapse and run away. This repetition works though because it shows that this is the reality for an addict and their family.
Overall, the film explores uncomfortable truths about addiction and the limitations of parenting in situations where drugs like meth are involved.
Beautiful Boy premiered at TIFF on Sept. 7 and will be released in theatres in October 2018.