Chalamet and Carell shine in tragic biopic (Beautiful Boy review)

Based on the real-life memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, ‘Beautiful Boy’ tells the tragic story of a father and his drug-addicted teenage son, and the strain this puts on their relationship. Supported by two stellar performances, the film is a weighty and emotional ride with a dark truth at its heart.

David and Nic Sheff are played by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, and both of them deliver career high performances. Steve Carell has managed to very well establish himself as a powerful dramatic actor as well as comedian, and Chalamet continues his incredible career, following last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name’, by delivering another visceral and raw performance as David’s drug-addicted son. Their chemistry as a father and son is utterly believable and is responsible for all of the emotion in the film.

As mentioned, the film is based on two real life memoirs, one by David and one by Nic. Because of this, the film strikes a very strong balance of showing the thoughts of both characters, and never painting either of them as the full hero or the full villain. These are complex people, dealing with impossible situations, and the film very well deals with this fact. It never victimises and instead stays neutral in its judgement, allowing the audience to make their own minds up about the many issues of drug addiction.

The film is very well shot, using real film cameras and soft-focus lenses to lend a delicate feel to the film (echoing the fragile relationship of the two leads). In parts, the handheld cameras makes it seem like we’re watching a home video, which enhances the emotional family dynamic. Similarly, the films use of flashbacks intercut very well with the main narrative of the film, displaying the parallels of fatherhood through the years. A powerful shot of David carrying his infant son is later referenced when David carries Nic after a heavy overdose.

Though the film is a definite tear jerker, sometimes it does try to become too sentimental. It equally doesn’t have enough confidence in the leads to deliver the powerful performances they are clearly giving. During some of the most powerfully raw scenes, music is played over the top to try and tell the audience what they should be feeling, despite the fact we all clearly know that a teenage boy shooting himself up with crystal meth is a tragic thing.

The film is an emotional ride, with raw performances and a disturbingly true story. The performances are great, and though the film sometimes lacks confidence, it is still very much worth a watch.

5 stars 4

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