Beautiful Boy tells the heartbreaking, true story of a son and father’s relationship in the hands of drug abuse


Based on the harrowing true memoirs about a father and son, Nic and David Sheff, the movie Beautiful Boy tells a 120-minute story regarding the frailty of unconditional love in the face of drug abuse.

As a young child, Nic Sheff (Timothee Chalamet) lived a charming life. In the beginning, his story follows the same path as any other kid most parents would be proud of. As a sweet and intelligent child attracted to writing and art, Nic not only followed his interests but excelled. However, as Nic grew older, he began dabbling in drugs; as young adulthood approached, he became hostage to an unforgiving substance: methamphetamine.

Beautiful Boy chronicles the never-ending chase of a father, David Sheff (Steve Carell), attempting to find the underlying truth of his son’s relationship with drugs. He struggles to understand how his once loving, intelligent son could fall down this tragic hole. As events spiral out of control, David refuses to give up and let go of his son, his “beautiful boy.” His stepmother (Maura Tierney) and mother (Amy Ryan) also fall in line with David, trying to help their son recover.

The movie is simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It touches on the dark, uncomfortable topic of Nic’s drug addiction, yet the undeniable bond between son and father brings hope and raw devotion into the atmosphere throughout the film.

However, as Nic’s drug addiction worsens and his relationship with meth becomes closer than his relationship with his own father, it quickly darkens. Watching a boy lose himself and disconnect from his father and family is, to simply describe it, heartbreaking. The relationship between Nic and David becomes strained and fractured as the movie progresses, only intensifying the heartbroken feeling.

However, the director, Felix Van Groeningen, purposefully places intercalary flashbacks throughout the movie of Nic in his younger, happier days. The aesthetically filmed flashbacks adequately serve their purpose by displaying the warming recollections of Nic and his father’s unconditional, close relationship growing up. The old memories serve their purpose by stirring up emotion. As David tells a younger version of Nic that all of the words in the world could never describe how much he loves him, it’s difficult not to feel the impact of his words.

The tragic storyline, though, could never have unleashed its full potential without the actors who played the roles. Without the inarguably stunning and talented production put on by Chalamet and Carell, the story would most likely have fallen flat. Both characters more than live up to their roles, and they bring aspects of familial beauty into an obviously unpleasant situation.

As the story continues, it becomes slightly cyclical and repetitive, with a perfunctory ending. The ending and the general story, although strong, could have unleashed a more profound poignancy if the background of the characters held a greater depth.

Nic is described as a talented writer, yet the only writings of his shown in the film were unorganized scribbles written while he was high. Also, he continues to use drugs to fill a void inside of him, but what is the characterization of this void? What are the factors that caused this void? Although Nic is occasionally displayed as compassionate and kind throughout the film, he would have made a more likable protagonist if there was something about him that the audience could root for.

Regardless of its lack of character depth and the slightly repetitive nature that the film acquires as it progresses, the story still effectively displays the painful and frustrating effects that substance abuse can inflict on people and the people around them. Beautiful Boy acts to speak up about the complicated, uncomfortable processes of addiction and recovery.

The film uses Nic and David’s story to accurately send a strong, important message. Throughout the movie, the story instills a piercing warning of how the use of drugs can tear a person down, strain families, and create holes where love should be filled. It’s difficult to helplessly watch a potentially healthy life fall apart, but the outstanding love and devotion David has for his “beautiful boy” is compelling. Wonderfully portrayed by Chalamet and Carell, the penetrating, raw emotion characterized by Nic and David’s relationship make a potentially unwatchable story one filled with love and hope.