14th October 2018 11.00am at Embankment Garden Cinema
16th October 2018 6.00pm at Ciné Lumière
Addiction is a horrible disease in any form, whether it be gambling, alcohol or drugs. Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy chooses to explore the latter and the complex family relationships that suffer painfully at the hands of substance abuse. Basing his film on two memoirs written by father and son, the director, along with the support of leading actors Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, addresses a very topical issue that is proving to be an ever-present danger in modern youth culture.
By incorporating harrowing scenes of desperation from both parents and their drug-using child, what Van Groeningen’s latest release shows is the devastating effect that such highs and antidepressants can have on even the strongest support networks, whilst also depicting the mental turmoil that is suffered by the abuser, with the light at the end of the tunnel never getting any brighter.
David Sheff (Carell) is openly aware that his son Nic (Chalamet) is a perpetual user of Crystal Meth, one of the most addictive illegal drugs on the market. In an attempt to find a way to help the teenager break his addiction, David admits Nic into rehab and also begins to educate himself on the science of the substances so that he can relate – but all efforts are at a loss. What David fears most is that he was in fact partly responsible for his son’s downward spiral because of engaging in the smoking of pot with his boy, and confessing to having dabbled with drugs when he was younger, unconsciously giving Nic the green light to experiment himself. This father is tortured by the past; brighter days with his son are long gone and what is left is a shell of the boy he used to know. Hope is all he has left, but will he ever discover the answer to the one question that has plagued his mind for the last three years. Is Nic a lost cause, or is there still hope?
Chalamet’s talent is undeniably a household truth following his breakthrough performance in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, and Beautiful Boy does nothing but reinstate that fact. Apparently, the 22-year-old has no boundaries when it comes to his emotional capacity and skill for acting; he plays the tormented, drug-addicted Nic with an immense passion and conviction. There is magnificent onscreen chemistry between Carell and Chalamet, with the former displaying his maturity and experience to strengthen the plot to a powerful magnitude, stirring the audience into an emotional state of anguish even though the subject matter is thankfully not so relatable to the majority.
This is also thanks to the writing of Van Groeningen and Luke Davies, who have evidently invested heart and hardship into constructing a script that both provides suitable entertainment yet an informative warning to audiences about the dangers of drug use. The movie also contains a wicked soundtrack that follows the mood and periods of each scene, whilst also using varying cinematic techniques to reflect on the clarity of the characters’ reality and mindset. The ending could perhaps have done with a little more restructuring, with the timeline-jumping plot building to a ginormous climax, to only then be followed by a small conclusion. However, these are of course only small foibles in a grander film that conveys a formidable message with greater resonance given that it’s indeed a true story.
Beautiful Boy is released nationwide on 18th January 2019.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Beautiful Boy here: