Beautiful Boy, a harrowing film about drug addiction and its effect on a father and son relationship, struggles to reconcile its two origin sources. David Sheff’s title memoir tells the father’s side, while Nic Sheff’s Tweak relays the son’s addiction story. David’s (Steve Carell) point of view is the dominant perspective acting as a filter that allows us to feel sympathy for Nic’s (Timothee Chalamet) struggles and frequent and baffling relapses.
Director Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) grinds Beautiful Boy in the vicious cycle and frustration of addiction— hitting bottom, rehab, relapse, repeat until an uneasy coexistence evolves. The addictive reality is always present. The only victory is restraint for a craving that never goes away, and the realization from loved ones that their Beautiful Boy will suffer a painful, imperfect, but sober existence.
Steve Carell does a good job in showing the frustration of David trying to understand, still love and support his son thru rehab and relapse, as well as the pain to finally let him go, granting Nic the freedom, independence and the responsibility to struggle with his addiction and cure.
Nic is the more unformed character partly because he never fully knows himself and the psychological underpinnings that cause his addiction. Chalamet shows him with the full gamut of wounded emotions on display. It is an elevation of the potential demonstrated in Call Me By Your Name.