Review: Beautiful Boy (2018)

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Directed by: Felix van Groeningen | 112 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Ryan, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works, Kue Lawrence, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ricky Low, Marypat Farrell, Amy Forsyth, Andre Royo, Mandeiya Flory , Timothy Hutton

A bond between parent and child can be unbreakable. In ‘Beautiful Boy’ we see how such an apparently strong bond between father David (Steve Carell) and his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet) comes under extreme tension. They seem like a strong duo, until Nic turns out to be very sensitive to drugs and especially to Crystal Meth.

In the strong opening scene of ‘Beautiful Boy’ we see David talking to an as yet unknown interlocutor. He asks for advice for his son. This obviously costs him a lot of effort. David is distraught, but everything shows that he loves his son dearly. The tone is set. Carell and Chalamet deliver craftsmanship and form the heart of the film, which has a natural feel thanks to the character-driven script.

The film consists of mostly short scenes that are not shown chronologically. Initially it is a bit of a puzzle, but after a while you get used to it and you don’t have to think about it anymore. The perspective also changes sometimes. In general, the father’s perspective was chosen. In the first half of the film you do not see what your son is up to, but only the severe consequences that his actions have on his loved ones. Later this perspective changes and you understand more and more why Nic does what he does. The whole movie feels very realistic, almost documentary. This has a very positive and a less positive effect.

Because of the true-to-life character of ‘Beautiful Boy’, the intense scenes make a big impression. You understand how you can completely slide off as a human being. How the hell a bum can end up on the street, how despite all the Western privileges you can end up with nothing and how you can give up hope and sever all ties with a loved one. ‘Beautiful Boy’ makes this completely transparent and understandable. The purpose of the biographical film has been more than successful because of this set-up.

Yet something seems to be missing. There are moments in the film where you as a viewer give up. The long atmospheric images of the beautiful landscapes are sometimes boring. The music is also occasionally too directing in the emotions. Or is there simply a lack of lightness? In any case, ‘Beautiful Boy’ makes an impression. Given the text at the end credits (that drug use is currently the largest cause of death in America), the goal seems to have been achieved. But maybe it is sometimes just too documentary or too focused on the prevention of drug use. It’s a thin line that the one ‘Beautiful Boy’ might just cross. Despite that, it is a very strong film, where beautiful cinematic images are found and where the game is especially moving.

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