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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 1 month ago

'Beautiful Boy' is a painful yet important film showing the reality of addiction

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Gut-wrenching performances by Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet will grab viewers' hearts, squeeze and never let them go.

"Beautiful Boy" is a difficult film to watch. It charts the downward spiral of addiction, based on the New York Times best selling memoirs by David Sheff and Nic Sheff. And it cannot be ignored.

Freelance writer David Sheff (Steve Carell) has discovered his 18-year-old son, Nic (Timothee Chalamet), is addicted to crystal methamphetamine. Bewildered and frightened, David wants desperately to find out why. He seeks advice from a Dr. Brown (Timothy Hutton) who paints a dim picture for Nic's future, citing that only 8% of meth users have a chance of overcoming their addiction. 

In a nonlinear format, the film flashbacks take audiences to happier times when Nic was growing up. David examines them in hopes of picking up clues as to what led Nic down this destructive path. Father and son have a loving relationship and for the most part, quite honest. When his Dad asks him "why," Nic simply comments that "it makes me feel good." But as his addictions escalate, Nic realizes that is simply bullshit.

David's first wife (Amy Ryan) tries extremely hard to be supportive, as does his second wife (Maura Tierney), along with their young children. But it takes such a devastating toll on their lives that they hit rock bottom, eventually to the point of excluding Nic from the family. 

Photo courtesy USA Today

Director Felix van Groeningen navigates this family's harrowing nightmare with such raw honesty that his audience cannot help but become involved in the drama and heartbreak. We wince each time Nic relapses, puts a needle in his arm or reaches out for help. He bases his film on Nic's book, "Tweak" and David's book, "Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction" and manages to transfer the collaboration brilliantly onto the screen.

But it's the two gut-wrenching performances by Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet that will grab your heart and leave an indelible mark on your soul. Chalamet, who received an Oscar nomination for "Call Me By Your Name," goes into some incredibly dark places with such precision, it hurts. And Carell, also nominated for an Oscar for "Foxcatcher," wears his weary heart on his sleeve for an entire two hours. It's painfully riveting.

"Beautiful Boy" is a story that needs to be told given the fact that overdoses are the leading cause of death for those in the U.S. under the age of fifty. Most importantly, this fearless film emphasizes that addiction is not a moral failure but a disease. And it could happen to anyone.

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