I found myself feeling lonely and a bit dizzy after going to see the movie “Beautiful Boy” directed by Felix Van Groeningen. The film is based on the books “Beautiful Boy,” written by David Sheff, the father of a meth addict, and “Tweak,” written by Nic Sheff, the meth addict’s son. Yes, it would be hard to cram two books worth of stories into a two-hour-long movie, however, I did, at times, feel a little bit lost in terms of which part of this complicated story I was actually watching.
The movie follows the relationship between a father and son as the boy becomes involved with drugs and keeps relapsing shortly after going to rehab, causing tremendous emotional damage on both himself and his family.
David Sheff, played by Steve Carell, is portrayed as a caring father who feels as though he can fix his son’s problems by learning about them and researching them like his journalistic background had taught him to do. I have not seen him take on such a dramatic role since “Foxcatcher,” but Carell took on this harrowing role as David Sheff and played the worried and disheveled father very well.
Nic Sheff, played by Timothée Chalamet, is a depressed young boy just looking to make his family proud of him, and when he can’t do that, he turns to drugs to help him out of feeling like a failure, which eventually leads him to use crystal meth.
The movie attempts to take hours of storytelling in two books and put it into one screenplay, which is a difficult task for anyone to complete. Yet, transitioning so abruptly between past and present had me struggling to find the timeline within the movie.
The audience sees Nic as an 18-year-old drug addict strung out on his bed one minute, then as a small kid sitting across from his father in the booth at a café the next minute. When the story finally comes back to the present, it’s not clear whether he is 16, 18 or even 20 years old, which is a result of the sudden leaps forward and backward in time without any clear time markers for the viewer to follow.
This also caused me to have a hard time connecting with the characters because I didn’t see the progression of the addiction, just the effects of the addiction. This in and of itself can be powerful, but I was hoping to see more of chronological evolution of Nic’s character from an innocent, beautiful boy into a depressed, emaciated drug addict.
This movie did do a great job of building a feeling of isolation between the characters by having the camera single out individual people. Most of the camera angles had just one character in the frame at a time, enhancing the feeling of loneliness and desolation of David, his wife and Nic’s stepmom Karen, Nic and Nic’s mother.
This movie was haunting, yet very intriguing. It has a way of pulling viewers into what the characters are feeling and going through from beginning to end. Though sometimes a little confusing, it definitely had my attention.