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Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.

Writers:

Luke Davies (screenplay by), Felix van Groeningen (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »
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1,481 ( 152)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 9 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Carell ... David Sheff
Maura Tierney ... Karen Barbour
Jack Dylan Grazer ... Nic Sheff (12 Years Old)
Oakley Bull ... Daisy Sheff
Christian Convery ... Jasper Sheff
Timothée Chalamet ... Nic Sheff
Amy Aquino ... Annie Goldblum
Carlton Wilborn ... Vince
Stefanie Scott ... Julia
Marypat Farrell ... Julia's Mother
Timothy Hutton ... Dr. Brown
Amy Forsyth ... Diane
Kue Lawrence ... Nic Sheff (5 Years Old)
Brandon James Cienfuegos ... Kid (as Brandon Cinfuegos)
Cheska Corona ... Kid

Timothée Chalamet: Golden Globe Nominee

Timothée Chalamet scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. We caught up with him and his Beautiful Boy costars at TIFF.

Watch our interview with Timothée at TIFF

Learn more

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Storyline

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Based on the Acclaimed Memoirs of David Sheff and Nic Sheff See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Steve Carell and Amy Ryan previously appeared together as a couple in The Office (2005). See more »

Goofs

The poem "Let It Enfold You" by Charles Bukowski is incorrectly named "Let It Unfold You" in the end credits. See more »

Quotes

David Sheff: I thought we were close. I thought we were closer than most fathers and sons! Why?
Nic Sheff: I felt better than I ever had, so... I just kept on doing it.
David Sheff: This isn't us! This is not who we are!
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the end credits, Nic is heard reciting the poem "Let It Enfold You" by Charles Bukowski. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Curb Your Enthusiasm: Beep Panic (2020) See more »

Soundtracks

Anyway You Do
Written by C.R. Hagin
Performed by Linda Brannon
Courtesy of RAM Records
By arrangement with Fervor Records
See more »

User Reviews

 
Earnest and heartfelt, but narratively awkward, and emotionally unengaging
29 January 2019 | by BertautSee all my reviews

Based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, written for the screen by Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen, and directed by van Groeningen in his English language debut, Beautiful Boy is a film about the horrors of addiction, told from the perspective of both an addict and his father. Focusing primarily on David's attempts to understand and fight against his son's addiction to crystal meth, the film aims for a no frills sans-sentimental authenticity (Davies is himself a former heroin addict, who based Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction on his experiences). Serving as something of a showcase for the two lead actors, (Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, both of whom are exceptional), there's little in the way of plot, with the film instead adopting a non-linear cyclical structure designed to mirror the repetitive nature of addiction-rehab-relapse-addiction-rehab etc. And whilst it is certainly heartfelt and respectfully told, there's little in the way of emotional engagement.

Living in Marin County, Nic Sheff (Chalamet) is an intelligent, popular, and kind teenager, who has a close relationship with his father, David (Carell), his stepmother Karen (Maura Tierney), and his two younger half-siblings, Jasper (Christian Convery) and Daisy (Oakley Bull). He is less close to his birthmother Vicki (Amy Ryan), who moved to LA after she and David divorced. David is a journalist for the New York Times, and Karen is a painter, with the family enjoying a comfortable bohemian middle-class existence. The film begins as David attends the offices of a drug counsellor and psychologist, Dr. Brown (Timothy Hutton). Explaining that Nic has become addicted to crystal meth, he wants to learn everything he can about the drug in order to best help his son.

The most notable aspect of Beautiful Boy is the structure, which is both cyclical and non-linear - the film is made up of a series of high and lows following Nic and David through relapse and recovery, whilst at the same time, there are multiple flashbacks, with scenes in the present giving characters occasion to think about moments from the past. For example, as David sits in a diner waiting for Nic to arrive, he thinks back to a much happier meal he had with his son in that same diner many years previously. This technique is used throughout the film, often flashing back to happier memories of Nic's childhood. The problem with this is that it's overused; there's barely a scene that doesn't have some kind of temporal cutaway. This overuse also dulls the impact of such editing, as after 45 minutes, you're just yearning for the film to stay put for a while.

As regards the repetitive nature of the story, I understand what van Groeningen was going for - it is supposed to mirror the back and forth nature of addiction ("relapse is part of rehab" as David is told), a two steps forward, one step back staccato motion. However, the film falls into a pattern of Nic showing up looking a little more dishevelled than he did before, followed by David doing everything he can to help, followed by his failure to get through to Nic, followed by Nic disappearing, followed by Nic showing up looking a little more dishevelled than he did before, etc. And whilst this may lend itself to a certain authenticity, it doesn't make for very effective drama. In any case, other filmmakers have found ways to depict the repetitive nature of addiction without compromising the story, not the least of whom would be Darren Aronofsky in Requiem for a Dream (2000), who constantly uses a quick montage of the characters doing drugs to suggest the habitual nature of addiction.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the movie is that Nic is a prosperous and intelligent middle-class young man with a strong support system. He is a child of divorce, yes, but he has a good relationship with both of his parents. This is a far cry from the typical addict we see in film and TV, who are usually at the extreme ends of the monetary spectrum, either poverty-stricken and destitute (such as, say, Bubbles (Andre Royo) in The Wire (2002)) or extremely wealthy and high-functioning (such as Caspar (Geoffrey Rush) in Candy (2006)). Nic first tried drugs to see what they were like, and when he liked how they made him feel, he kept on doing them. There was no precipitating event, no great emotional trauma which made him turn to narcotics; his addiction is just something that happened, a disease to which anyone could succumb

A major theme is that of the father-son relationship, and this is well-presented. With both actors giving superb performances, one really sees the bond between the two, and how much Nic's addiction is destroying both of them. In this sense, the real tragedy of his situation isn't the rehabs and relapses, it's seeing him drift further and further away from a man who would literally die to protect him. Given the source material, one does wonder a little if the relationship is idealised somewhat, but irrespective of that, Carell and Chalamet give a masterclass in acting.

With lesser per