Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell
Length: 2h 1min
I had very high expectations for Beautiful Boy, I am a huge Chalamet fan and have also really enjoyed watching Carell transition into more ‘serious’ acting. The story intrigued me, I had never seen a film on the topic of drug addiction in this age and class setting before. I left the film feeling incredibly overwhelmed, both by the film itself and the story line. Dealing with addiction in any media format always comes with its own difficulties. Beautiful Boy finely treads the line between sensitivity and being able to really tell an afflictive story.
The film is based on two memoirs from a father, David Sheff (Carell) and his son Nic Sheff (Chalamet). The film starts with David realising his son has become addicted to drugs, it then follows the struggle with both the addiction and David trying to deal with it. We watch as Nic grows up, with the classic paths of going to college and getting a girlfriend and how his addiction affects these experiences. The film is raw, it doesn’t hide anything and it all feels incredibly real. We see David try and deal with what is happening to his son, searching for any blame that could be placed. The torturous emotions both characters are feeling are so well depicted, I could really feel the pain they were experiencing.
Alongside dealing with this incredibly difficult subject beautifully, the film itself sprawled out like an art work, filling every minute of the run time with incredible images. Every corner of each shot, every piece of dialogue, every note of the awesome soundtrack feels as if it had spilt almost carelessly onto the screen to create a picture which both feels incredibly fluid and also disjointed at the same time. in some parts it had the poetic nature of Barry Jenkins vision in moonlight. it’s narrative jumps between different time frames and you feel as if these memories are your own.
Chalamet only further proved himself as this generations stand out star. His performance was consistently jaw dropping, it’s astounding to encounter an actor at such an age that has such an easy to connect with demeanour. He presents Nic’s character in a very vulnerable state, avoiding all junkie clichés and gives a very believable and genuine depiction. Chalamet has already received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor, and I expect he will receive plenty more. Carell was also excellent, although he did seem to struggle sometimes in the higher emotive scenes, often coming across as shrill, but on the whole his performance was very good. Also important to note, this film featured the best child actors I have ever seen- it’s incredible to see such young children somehow manage to show empathy towards a very adult subject matter. The women in the film unfortunately do not stand out as much, of course the focus of the film is on the father son relationship, so perhaps this is expected. Nic’s mother played by Amy Ryan came across as slightly flat, however his step mother played by Maura Tierney gave a much more sincere performance that felt far more authentic.
There are of course some parts of the film that slightly missed the mark. It sometimes felt that scenes were not necessary, it would go off on tangents that didn’t have particularly satisfying endings or seem to contribute to the film as a whole. This perhaps is a risk that goes with making a biographical film, as it is closer to what life is – lots of unfinished tangents. However in this context when the majority of the film seemed artfully selected, these points stood out as more of a negative. I loved the length of the film as it allowed me to watch these characters for longer, but it did feel as if it had a few false endings. Whether or not this was an intentional artistic choice is hard to tell, but you could sort of feel the guests in the cinema getting slightly restless as the film continued to demand your attention.
Despite this I really enjoyed this film, Chalamet continues to astound me and I will always love a film that really transports me to a different world. I would highly recommend viewing this film when it is released later this month.