Beautiful Boy: The Grit of Addiction | London Film Festival

by - Friday, October 19, 2018


Felix Van Groeningen brings his Beautiful Boy to London Film Festival. The story is adapted from the books of father and son, David and Nic Sheff, who both chronicled the same journey of Nic's drug addiction from two separate perspectives.

Steve Carrell steps into the shoes of father, David Sheff, who opens the film by essentially telling us everything we need to know; his son, Nic (Timothée Chalamet) is addicted to drugs. Crystal meth being the worst of them.

The film uses flashbacks to Nic's childhood to coalesce with moments from the present which allows for Chalamet's character to feel lived in, especially since Francine Maisler did a pretty fantastic job of casting multiple young boys who looked exactly like I imagine Chalamet did as a child. Constantly dipping in and out of two narratives can become pretty tedious pretty quickly but every single flashback is relative to the scene alongside it. It's used to remind us that every adult drug user was once an innocent child. I think these parts were necessary due to the fact Nic is "missing" through chunks of the narrative which would otherwise paint him as an enigma, taking our sympathy along with him. These flashbacks also show us the strength in bond between the two Sheffs. It isn't your average father/son relationship, particularly shown in the moment the pair share a joint in David's car.

Steve Carrell is making some fantastic choices in the roles he takes as of late and this is no exception. You see every memory in his eyes, able to clearly link what he's thinking to the flashback you've just seen. He's relentless in his love for his son never wanting to give up no matter how dire the circumstances may get.

I'll be thoroughly confused if the screenplay isn't nominated in the best adapted category at the Oscars. The pace and rhythm in the narrative blends with the moods of Nic; we get to ride a high with him for a certain amount of time until we crash back down to reality, watching him lose control of recovery. 

Beautiful Boy is a great study in how we can do better for those in our life who need it. It humanises a very real issue, highlighted in the epilogue with a chilling statistic:

Drugs are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50

I don't know how that compares here in the UK but it is a thorough reminder for a generation that I believe has made drugs a casual and 'social' activity. It's a story that is hard to watch at points but I believe could be a lesson. I believe each person that heads in to see it will sympathise with a different character the most, for me it was David. I found myself mimicking his frustration with Nic whilst simultaneously wanting nothing but the best for him and being angry at myself that I couldn't be the one to do it for him.

Both characters have their downfalls, they aren't perfect, nor do we need them to be. We can find certain parts of ourselves within them and we start to care as though they are our own friend. I remember instantly burying my head in my hands when I heard Nic say he was going to college straight out of a rehabilitation centre just knowing it was too soon.

It doesn't glamorise anything, it doesn't let Nic off the hook, it doesn't glorify David as a father nor demonise Nic's mother, although it didn't completely explain the reasoning behind Nic's first endeavour into drugs it almost doesn't matter. I'm not sure how accurate all the recreations and information are and I don't feel entirely qualified to say it shows the life of an addict in an honest light but I believe it was presented well and gave an insight into the complications of loving somebody who struggles against addiction fairly accurately.



Beautiful Boy is out in UK cinemas from 18th January 2019.

Until next time



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