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‘Beautiful Boy’ illustrates familial addiction pains

Director Felix van Groeningen’s new heart-retching non-fiction “Beautiful Boy” is by no means for the hopelessly empathetic or the emotionally delicate.

The Amazon Studios flick is based upon two books, “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines” by Nic Sheff and “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction” by David Sheff. Both works describe the two perspectives of addiction, from the eyes of the addict and through the eyes of those who care deeply for him. Based off the actual lives and works of the authors, “Beautiful Boy” tells a story of relentless loss and unwavering love through graphic portrayals of reality and strife.


Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet), develops a crystal meth addiction in his late teens. David Sheff (Steve Carrel), is Nic’s father, another person engulfed by addiction’s toll. 

The protagonist’s vulnerable moments, present in flashbacks of his childhood and the gentle, intimate instants he shares with his younger siblings, besiege the stigma of his addiction as a criminalization of him. Rather, these brief snapshots of positivity remind audiences that addiction happens to those who love and are loved. This is perhaps what makes Nic Sheff’s juxtaposing shifts of erratic, self-imposed violence so painful to witness.

The film largely elucidates David Sheff’s hardships as he helplessly attempts to cure the person he describes to love more than anything in the entire world: his son. His desperate intentions to understand result in him trying his son’s addiction himself, digging his son out of ditches in the rain and disassociating from the family around him. He learns that he is not the cure or the cause, but his bounds of love are both his motivation and the source of his pain.

Chalamet seems to to have officially established himself as an unwavering staple on current indie screens. He encapsulates apprehensive intelligence and the simultaneous loss of self through commitment to his character’s benevolent highs and lows.

Carrel’s emergence of his salt and pepper appearance seems to recently occur in accordance with his seasoning as an actor. Centering an even more intensely incessant, authenticated misery than we witnessed him cultivate in “Little Miss Sunshine,” Carrel delivered profound hopelessness and resilience.

Although good, I find two major caveats in this film. Firstly, for those who may have experienced the themes of this film, there are explicit portrayals of drug use that could be triggering. The extremity and unnerving aspects of this film is one of the reasons why it is so hard-hitting and dynamic. I want to acknowledge that witnessing this commentary could cost more for some than others.

Additionally, although it broke down vital stigmas of fault and evil, I wish for a movie that doesn’t simply decriminalize another white, upper-class boy who seems to “have it all.” Modern media has an undeniable pattern of justifying the relationships certain types of people have with drugs while profiting off violent portrayals of others.

Should you watch it? If you want to get in your feels. 

This work aims to highlight a human experience often shrouded in either romantic portrayals of the issue or dehumanization of those who suffer from drug abuse. The feverish agony I experience during and after watching this movie are an indicator of workmanship and a well-portrayed humanity.


Miranda Moses can be reached at and on Twitter @mirandasrad.

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