Review: Beautiful Boy

Somewhere within Felix van Groeningen’s ‘Beautiful Boy’ there is a masterpiece.

There are strands of melancholy and light in the dark within this film that could easily make it a movie that would be talked about for years, at moments it grasps these, but they’re just out of reach for the most part.

Groeningen’s English language debut charts the true story of the laborious relationship between freelance journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) and his drug-addict son Nic (Timothée Chalamet).

The film’s main battle is of this pair’s own feelings of failure, which manifest against each other. Nic feels like a failure to his father, and David like he’s failed his son.

Now whilst the film deals in a clearly heavy-hitting subject matter, and does so with grace and decorum, it doesn’t quite pull the emotional strings it should.

Scenes of relapses and arguments didn’t faze me as much as I feel they should have. This isn’t the case for all the film, there is a fantastic scene where younger Nic, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, headbangs to Nirvana’s Territorial Pissings in the car with his Dad, which warmed my heart no end.

The casting couldn’t have been any better, all three of the actors who play younger versions of Timothée’s Nic are perfect matches, especially Grazer, who could genuinely be his younger brother.

Both leads excel throughout, with perfect on screen chemistry. Carell plays his emotionally tempestuous role with perfect understatement, the smallest expressions showing the biggest signs.

This is countered by Chalamet, whose turns as precocious teen Elio in Call Me By Your Name and teenage douche Kyle in Lady Bird made him one of the hottest prospects of 2017. His character is far more expressive, flailing and shouting at just about any authority figure he can find as he struggles through addiction.

The interaction between these two domineering performers is captivating every time they share the screen, however some odd soundtrack choices and tiresome pacing (despite being 110 minutes it felt well over two hours long) lead to any potential emotional impact being somewhat subdued when it does arrive.

The scenes involving Chalamet and his younger siblings are crafted wonderfully, and invoke the true feeling of what it is to be part of a family, and with this, the film carries some important messages, about dealing with addiction (and recovery) and the relationship between a father and son.

Unfortunately these moments are fleeting and fly by as quickly as they come.

It’s been reported that this film spent seven months being edited, and was completely recut multiple times in this process, and perhaps this has something to do with the subdued impact of the final cut.

Groeningen has made a film which so nearly works perfectly, and despite its shortcomings, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Beautiful Boy popping up at the Oscars with some Best Actor nods.

Related Articles