Journalist David Sheff (Steve Carell) cannot find his teenage son Nicholas (Timothy Chalamet). Missing for two days Nicholas reappears holed up in his bedroom after driving back in a car with broken headlights. Unable and unwilling to explain himself, David fears that Nicholas has returned to his crystal meth addiction, whereupon ‘Beautiful Boy’ looks back at how they both arrived at this point.
Based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, director Felix Van Groeningen’s debut should not lack for detail but it does. It lacks connection.
Ostensibly growing up in an affluent and loving home, David and Nicholas seem to enjoy the kind of close relationship many parents would envy. However it’s not enough for Nicholas nor this film. At the centre of both there is a void that needs to be addressed and neither are willing to goto that place.
Despite credible performances from Steve Carrell as David and Timothy Chalamet again impressing as Nicholas, ‘Beautiful Boy’s soft-focused approach to addiction undoes the real trauma at its heart. In following the hopes and disappointments of both, the film pulls short of an epidemic’s darkest outcomes. Possibly limited by its real events inspiration and the need to provide a semblance of hope, any sense of real tragedy is removed and it dulls both this worthy film and its message.