Beautiful Boy: Review

Beautiful Boy
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Titled after a John Lennon song, this sentimental drama adapts two memoirs written by father and son duo David and Nic Sheff. The film aims to merge their perspectives on a heart-wrenching family ordeal, where a promising young man succumbs to drug addiction. Unfortunately, this synthesis diminishes what could have been the most intriguing dimension of the story.

Director Felix Van Groeningen, known for award-winning films like Broken Circle and last year’s Belgica, ventures into English-language cinema and larger production for the first time. While Steve Carell and the exceptionally talented Timothée Chalamet deliver compelling performances—Chalamet proving that his Oscar nomination for Call Me by Your Name was no fluke—the script falls short. It only skims the emotional surface and offers no surprises in the storyline.

Consider this: the son of a successful journalist, on the cusp of a promising career, foregoes enrollment in a prestigious university. Instead, his vulnerability to substance abuse leads him down a path of addiction, treatment, and relapses. Given that the story also draws from his memoir, the outcome lacks suspense. What remains is a rather unemotional and artistically safe echo of films like Requiem for a Dream.

While the film does manage to convey the incomprehensible choices that can lead someone into drug addiction, this theme was more powerfully executed in Trainspotting two decades ago. Carell’s portrayal underscores that addiction takes many forms, but the film never elevates itself beyond these explicit clichés. It may serve as an adequate educational tool in a school screening for drug prevention, but it falls short as a cinematic experience.

Van Groeningen does make an effort to inject emotional weight through the use of post-rock music, featuring tracks from bands like Sigur Rós and Mogwai. While refreshing at times, this is perhaps the only element that distinguishes the film from a routine melodrama. The narrative’s use of flashbacks and current events only reinforces the notion that stories about addiction are often interchangeable and repetitive. Ultimately, these potentially interesting ideas are forgotten and undeveloped, leaving behind only the aftertaste of unfulfilled potential.

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