A Review of ‘Beautiful Boy’


Anisa Persaud

The ‘Beautiful Boy’ poster, at AMC Theaters.

Portraying addiction and the road to recovery is a substantial challenge for a film. Addiction is often glamorized, with the road to recovery shown as seemingly straightforward. ‘Beautiful Boy’ is what many would describe as an honest depiction of addiction; it is not glamorized or romanticized, but rather shown as the distressing chaos that it is.

‘Beautiful Boy’ originates from the true stories of a father and son whose relationship is ultimately tested by the son’s myriad of addictions to meth, alcohol, weed, cocaine, and heroin. The film is based on a pair of memoirs written by the father-son duo, “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction,” by David Sheff, and “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines,” by Nic Sheff. The movie stars Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet as the central figure Nic Sheff, a young man battling his various demons, and Steve Carell as David Sheff, Nic’s father. The film is mostly shown through David’s eyes, as he struggles to come to terms with his son’s addiction. Throughout the film, he constantly reflects on Nic’s childhood, asking himself, “Did we do something? Did we not do something?”

The film spans across a large portion of Nic’s life, as it is non-linear and jumps around from memory to memory. It shows how Nic transformed from an innocent, carefree child, to a young man who constantly hurts the people around him. He disappears for days on benders from his father’s home in San Francisco, he lies to every person in his life, and he steals from his family. One upsetting scene shows Nic stealing his little sister’s savings in order to pay for his next fix. Another heartbreaking scene shows Nic being arrested in front of his younger brother, who tried to protect him from getting arrested after Nic broke into his father’s house to steal more valuables.

Even though he had his flaws, he was still shown as a person,” said Anna Chen ’19.

Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell both give excellent, touching performances in their respective roles as Nic and David Sheff. Chalamet plays Nic as a disconnected, skittery young man, whose desperation is poignantly shown throughout his scenes. Carell plays David as a methodical father who has a different type of desperation — one to keep his son as safe as possible.

Anisa Persaud
Anna Chen ’19 shares her thoughts on the new movie.

One of the most powerful aspects of this movie was its emotional impact. “One of my favorite things about the movie was that it didn’t turn Nic into a villain. Even though he had his flaws, he was still shown as a person,” Anna Chen ’19 said. Although Nic hurts his family through his addiction, the movie also shows his caring side. Chalamet portrays Nic as a warm, intelligent person when sober, contrasting with his darker personality when under the influence. The soundtrack to the movie also played a large part in projecting the emotions of the characters. “The music really set the dramatic tones and mood for the story,” Eshika Badrul ’19 said. “During the flashbacks, the background music really helped the viewer to feel a sense of nostalgia and loss. The music for the more heart wrenching scenes really connected to me emotionally and made me feel like crying in the theater.”

Anisa Persaud
Eshika Badrul ’19 gives her opinion on the film’s soundtrack.

The story is told in a disjointed format, which makes the plot and timeline difficult for viewers to follow along. One could interpret the random flashbacks to be a statement on a person’s train of thoughts and how jumbled memories can seem and how they are rarely remembered in order. However, for viewers who have not read either memoir written by David or Nic Sheff, and thus have no background to the story outside of what they are being shown in the movie, the flashbacks come off as more confusing than as a profound statement. A lot of questions are asked in the film, and very few actually get answered.

Overall, ‘Beautiful Boy’ is a powerful film that tugs at the emotions of its audience. The script and scenes were made with detailed care that did their best to fully convey the story. The plot did an excellent job staying true to the memoirs without fictionalizing too much of the narrative. Although the movie aims to demystify addiction, there are many questions about David and Nic’s experiences that are ultimately left unresolved. However, if you are a fan of dramas or movies based on true stories, then ‘Beautiful Boy’ may be just the film for you.