Film Review: "Beautiful Boy"

I decided to take a trip to Rhinebeck to see the Indie film, Beautiful Boy, directed by Felix van Groeningen. It was a brilliantly constructed piece bringing what I believe to be justice to the true story of Nic Sheff, a crystal methamphetamine addict.

Upstate Film’s ambiance in the heart of the quaint town made the experience a hundred times more noteworthy. I paid ten dollars to see the film, but in reality, I paid ten dollars for an experience.

The popcorn was served in those ancient-looking cylinder, yellow containers. The tickets were not the typical white slips you receive at your local Regal or AMC; they were the little stub tickets you get when you buy a 50/50 raffle at a high school basketball game. The theater was small and intimate, so once the doors closed and the lights dimmed, I was no longer in a random town 20 minutes outside Poughkeepsie, but rather, in another dimension: one of creative, technicolor promise and sheer nostalgia.

I knew going into the film that Steve Carell was the main character, making it hard for me to see him as anything other than Michael Scott from The Office. However, he proved me wrong within the first five minutes. Carell played the role of the father of the addict perfectly.

Timothée Chalamet played Carell’s son, Nic Sheff, who was the addict. Chamalet showcased his undeniable talent as a young actor as he reflected a powerful performance which left me in absolute awe.

Both Carell and Chalamet made you feel every single emotion, from sadness to optimism and anger, with each word and facial expression. It made you feel like you were part of the film, experiencing every up and down with the Sheff family, with every heartache and ounce of hope. For those 120 minutes, you were in the Sheff family and you were rooting for Nic.

There were instances where I found myself understanding Nic in ways I never thought I could. Not because I relate to his addiction, but because Chalamet’s portrayal of the character was so pure and relevant to people my age. Nic being 19, barely beginning his life, leaves you wondering how terrible a disease like addiction truly can be and just how many families it tragically tests every day.

The film turned out not only to be for entertainment but rather a mechanism for awareness. Feelings created by most movies usually wear off when you return to your daily life, but a film like this stays with you. A story like this stays with you.

I think Carell and Chalamet, as well as van Groeningen,  do a beautiful job in infiltrating a massive issue like drug and alcohol addiction into such a small-scale, simple film. The purpose of the piece was not to entertain or to make you laugh. It was not made to make people feel good as they watched. The purpose was to stimulate people’s understanding and make them comprehend the epidemic of addiction. It informs, educates, and most importantly, it provokes empathy.

The film encapsulates more than a typical slippery slope of a boy who falls into the deep, dark, all-encompassing depths of addiction, but rather tells a story of a boy who loses himself and tries to find himself again. It is about a boy whose purpose is to get his life back.

There is a stigma on those who are addicts, but few realize just how normal these people really are. They are not always the poor, the depressed, or the mentally ill; they are everyday people who seem happy and put together but are secretly living a second life.

Stories like these are significant. Leave you touched and inspired to do something. Awareness is integral to help solve the issue and help addicts. Chalamet and Carell leave us with an array of emotion and a new, emerging capacity that yearns for change.

This ode to the helplessness of addiction cannot go unnoticed.

Kristen ContiComment