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.