Film Review: BEAUTIFUL BOY (USA 2018) ***

Beautiful Boy Poster

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.


Luke Davies (screenplay by), Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay by) |2 more credits »

Films about addiction no matter how well made are a difficult watch.  Acclaimed films of this genre in the past, Blake Edwards’s DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (alcoholism) and Otto Preminger’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (drugs) are examples.  The title of this latest opus on drug addiction supposedly crystal meth addiction, attempts to disguise the unpleasant material at hand.

Based on the bestselling pair of memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, Belgium director Felix van Groeningen’s first English language film chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.  The son is the addicted one, and the father a mild user of drugs when younger goes all out to save his son from devastation.  As the story is derived from their memoirs, one can safely assume that all the events that occur in the film are true, maybe with just a little bit of dramatization.

Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet delivers a better performance here than in the over-rated CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  But it is Steve Carell than achieves the acting honours.  At times, one hates his character for being too controlling and at other times, sympathize for his defeat.  It is when one never notices an actor’s performance that he is doing a phenomenal role and Carell achieves this feat proving himself apt at both comedy and drama.

Nic is indeed a beautiful child with two brothers.  Nic’s drug use grows uncontrollably.  The film traces his genuine attempt at rehabilitation, then coming clean before a relapse.  His parents (Amy Ryan plays the mother) are always there for him, though too angry and controlling (understandably) at times.  Nic comes close to death as well.  As said, it is a chore to watch the downward spiral of a drug addict.

Though film’s press kit says that the drug of addiction is meth, the film shows otherwise.  Nic is shown at various point heating up a liquid in a spoon and then injecting the solution into his veins.  Meth is just mixed with water when injected, so Nic must have progressed to crack, which is not explained to the audience.  In another scene, David, the father sniffs a line of powder as he claims he wishes to experience first hand of the drug.  Again, nothing is explained to the audience as meth is normally consumed by snorting (as David did) but more commonly by smoking it in a meth pipe (never shown) though the use of injection (which gives a faster high) is less common.

The film is well shot (the surfing segment) and there are no complaints with regards to the other departments.

BEAUTIFUL BOY premiered at TIFF together with another drug addiction film, Baldvin Z’s LET ME FALL from Iceland set in the capital of Reykjavik.  Baldvin Z draws his film on true stories and interviews with the families of addicts and is clearly the better film in terms of raw authenticity.  In this film Magnea the addict is never really keen of rehab and constantly lies to her long-suffering parents who finally gives up on her.  BEAUTIFUL BOY in comparison is American and the boy Nic genuinely wishes to come clean though the film proves this an extremely difficult task.  But BEAUTIFUL BOY proves once again the triumph the human spirit over adversities like meth addiction.


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (France/Italy 2017) ***

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Call Me by Your Name Poster

In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.


Luca Guadagnino


James Ivory (screenplay by), André Aciman (based on the novel by)

Luca Guadagnino’s (I AM LOVE, A BIGGER SPALSH) CALL ME BY YOUR NAME arrives with all the accolades after playing major festivals around the world after premiering at Sundance and Cannes.  I did not think too much of it when I first saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival, so I had to view it a second time to see what I could have missed.  The second viewing proved no different in the way I felt about the film, so I had to analyze the reason so many fellow critics loved this film while I just barely enjoyed it.

It should be noted firstly, that 2017 saw the release of three excellent but different gay films.  BPM from France, is a documentary felt drama dealing with AIDS activists that is both moving, real and riveting.  Britain’s GOD’S OWN COUNTRY showed  that gay life is as tough as fucking against a wall, as experienced by the gay farmhand who finally gains acceptance of his lifestyle and finds love.  CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, however is fantasy gay life as if bathed in sunlight and swimming in clear waters in the country and eating peaches.  It is the gay kind of movie that straight people want to see – all pretty and non-troubling with no rough sex in the toilet.  

The two lead stars are straight.  Armie Hammer (THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE LONE RANGER) plays Oliver, a summer guest at Professor Perlman’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) summer house in Italy.  Every year, the professor invites a student to assist in his research, which incidentally is hardly shown in the film.  The other straight lead is Timothée Chalamet who plays the 17-year old Elio Perlman, the professor’s son, who falls for Oliver.  Both are American actors though Chalamet practised his Italian prior to acting in the movie.  His father is French and mother Jewish which is  suitable for his role as an Italian Jew in the movie.  You call me by your name, and I yours.  It all sounds so romantic.  The gay couple hardly encounter any obstacles, except a few minor ones.  Elio’s father (Michae Stuhlbarg) opens his heart out to his son in one of the film’s best segments, but that is about all the obstacles so far in this gay fantasy.

Guadagnino’s film is undoubtedly stunning, with sunlight lighting up many scenes.  The luscious eating of a peach and the sexual seduction (who seduces whom in the film?) is very erotic.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is adapted into the script by James Ivory from André Aciman’s coming-out and coming-of-age novel.  Still, together with films such as PHILADELPHIA, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME even made by a gay director (Guadagnino is openly gay) is a worthwhile straight gay film to watch it, but don’t expect life to unfold the way life does in this film.  Disgustingly beautiful – the film is all good-looking on the outside and feeling like a fairy tale, neglecting the downers of coming-out gay.   Things never turn out this perfect in any gay coming-out story.  The film feels even more awkward as Elio looks way under below the age of 17.



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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (France/Italy 2017) **1/2

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.jpgSummer of 1983, Northern Italy. An American-Italian is enamored by an American student who comes to study and live with his family. Together they share an unforgettable summer full of music, food, and romance that will forever change them.

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: James Ivory (screenplay), André Aciman (based on the novel by)
Stars: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg

Review by Gilbert Seah

The gay coming-out story CALL ME BY YOUR NAME arrives at TIFF after rave reviews from its Sundance and Cannes premieres.

It boasts the direction of Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino ( I AM LOVE and A BIGGER SPLASH) and a script by James Ivory. The film explores the tender, tentative relationship that blooms over the course of one summer between a 17-year-old boy on the cusp of adulthood, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer).

The father is American professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and each summer, the professor invites a doctoral student to visit and help with his research. While Elio has a beautiful girlfriend who takes up most of his emotional time, he also finds a growing physical attraction to the visitor.

The film is a major disappointment being all good-looking on the outside and feeling like a fairy tale, neglecting the downers of coming-out gay. Things never turn out this perfect in any gay coming-out story. The film feels even more awkward as Elio looks way under below the age of 18.