Nic is a beautiful boy. He was born a beautiful boy. He was raised a beautiful boy. And he remained a beautiful boy. Until, that is, addiction brought out all the ugly in him.
Or did it? While it’s true addiction can and does bring out the ugly in everyone. Does the addict or alcoholic ever cease being a parent’s beautiful boy?
That’s one of the central questions asked and answered in Amazon Studios’ heartwrenching Beautiful Boy. The film, directed by Felix Van Groeningen, is based on a set of father and son memoirs (Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, respectively) that are both centered around teenage Nic's crystal meth addiction and his father David's struggle to help get him clean. Steve Carell plays the dad. Amy Ryan plays the mom. And Timothée Chalamet plays the son.
Chalamet, who got an Oscar nomination for his lead role in Luca Guadagnino's 2017 romantic drama Call Me by Your Name, is again being touted as a likely Academy Award contender, if not a outright shoe-in. But Carell’s poignant performance shouldn’t be discounted. Neither should Amy Ryan’s. Nor, for that matter, should the Maura Tierney’s turn as the stepmom.
Then again, when it comes to a story as sad and troubling as addiction, especially vis-a-vis the family, those performances better be spot on if they’re to be at all believable.
And Beautiful Boy is about as believable as a film can get without being a documentary. Sure that has a lot to do with the source material. And again, it also has a lot to do with the actors’ portrayal. But what really enhances Beautiful Boy’s believability is the commonality such a dire situation. And that’s not just sad; it’s downright tragic.
Yes, right now, millions of Americans are suffering from substance abuse disorder. That means hundreds of thousands of American families are suffering through the addiction story told in Beautiful Boy. Some of those families have the resources of the Sheff’s. Others don’t. But each and every one of those addiction stories is as sad and as tragic as the next, as well as the last. And regardless of a family’s station, each and every parent has high hopes and dreams for their beautiful children.
“I had such grand plans,” says Carell’s David Sheff. “He’d graduate from college and do something amazing. Now I just want him to not die.”
It’s a brutal truth. And after countless rehabs and relapses, that truth becomes even more brutal.
In real life, Nic Sheff did relapse after the release of his memoir. He then wrote a book about recovery called We All Fall Down. That title too is one of the all too brutal truths concerning addiction. Because no matter who we are or where we come from, addicts and alcoholics all fall down.
But at some time or another so does everyone else. Addicts and alcoholics don’t have a monopoly on falling down. And addicts and alcoholics have just as much chance at getting up again. Heck, if one counts the degree of difficulty displayed by rising from the ashes of addiction, one could say addicts and alcoholics have an even better chance at getting up again.
Witness real-life Nic. Nic’s now been sober for eight -- count ‘em -- years. He’s written an episode of The Killing. And he writes and produces for 13 Reasons Why. And if that’s not a testament to an addict's rising then nothing is.
It's also a testament to a family’s staunch and steadfast support of their beautiful boy. Again with Carell playing dad David:
“Nic, what you have is extraordinary. You’re going to get it back. You’re going to find it again.”
That's something every addict and alcoholic needs to bear in mind, and so do their parents, regardless of how tough the going gets. Everyone has a chance at again finding their own inner extraordinary.
Applause for Beautiful Boy
Recovery Boot Camp, Healing Properties and the Schnellenberger Family Foundation would all like to applaud Amazon Studios for making and releasing Beautiful Boy. We’d also like to applaud the Sheffs and the cast for their courage in telling and portraying the respective addiction stories. We hope that one day such addiction stories won’t need to be written, let alone filmed. While they are needed though, it’s good to see them so truthfully and faithfully told.