Beautiful Boy: LFF Film Review

I have been a huge fan of Timothee Chalamet since I saw Call Me By Your Name and I even championed him to win the Oscar for this performance (still believe he was robbed!) so obviously I was going to check out Beautiful Boy, which puts him firmly back in the Oscars race once again.

He plays Nic Sheff, a teenager trying to fill the void in his life with drugs, but he spirals out of control once he starts using crystal meth. The film covers many years charting Nic’s struggle with addiction and sobriety, his stints in rehab and the ways his dad David (Steve Carell) tries to help.

The best thing about Beautiful Boy is the performances. Chalamet is unbelievably good – navigating the insane highs and despairing lows of addiction; the lies, the deception, the mood swings, the desperation, the short-lived want to get clean. Carell is just as impressive as the concerned dad who is at his wits’ end trying to figure out how to help his son, who doesn’t want it. You feel his despair, his sense of helplessness. Both of these performances could end up with mentions this awards season. But everyone else is great, from Maura Tierney as Nic’s stepmum, a strong support system for David, and Amy Ryan as Nic’s concerned mother.

The characters are well-written by Luke Davies and director Felix Van Groeningen, adapted from David and Nic’s own books about the experience, and you cared for them a lot. You really wanted Nic to save himself and free himself from the dark spiral he’s in but I sympathised the most with David. I felt so sorry for him, trying to help someone who doesn’t want it. What an awful position to be in.

I had fully expected to be in flood of tears but I didn’t even run the risk of that, which surprised me. I think that’s down to the way the story is told. It jumps around a lot and I sometimes had to figure out how a scene fitted chronologically with what we’d already seen. Some things weren’t clear to me – where did Nic go to university? Did he finish or drop out? After how long? What was the timeline of events? I think these questions swirling round my mind during the film robbed it of its emotional impact.

Beautiful Boy could have easily been very emotionally affecting but it wasn’t due to a number of narrative issues. That’s a shame because the performances are excellent.

Seen as part of the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. Set for release on 18th January 2019.

SEE ALSO:

Pics of Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell at the LFF premiere

Q&A with Steve Carell and David Sheff at the Beautiful Boy premiere

Q&A with Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeningen at the Beautiful Boy premiere 

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