Review / ‘Beautiful Boy’ (MA) *** and a half

Timothee Chalamet in “Beautiful Boy”.

MANY words have been spoken and recorded recounting parents’ anguish when substance abuses beset their offspring and blight the lives of families.

Among them are the books “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction” by David Sheff and “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines” by his son Nic.

These provide powerful source material for this film by Belgian director and co-writer (with Australian Luke Davies) Felix Van Groeningen about the agonies of a loved son’s descent into substance abuse. It’s a cautionary tale charting Nic’s ride along a very rough path.

Parents whose children have avoided becoming addicted to any substance may, should and probably do count themselves fortunate. Books about addiction mostly view the condition from the outside. Nic (Timothée Chalamet) clean for eight years, has written an inside view.

What got Nic was methamphetamine, the central nervous system stimulant mainly used as a recreational drug, less commonly as a second-line treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity. In the jargon of addiction, ice.

The film is unremitting in its observation of family. David and Nic’s mother Vicki (Amy Ryan) divorced when Nic was small; David (Steve Carell) has since married Karen (Maura Tierney) who has borne two children. David’s determination to rescue Nic from addiction’s blight dominates the film. We realise that David is following a path less likely to succeed. Only Nic can lift himself out of the morass.

In the catalogue of message films, “Beautiful Boy” stands out for its origins and its trio of principal performances. With no defined target audience, it’s a film for all to experience and file under “cautionary tales”.

At Palace Electric, Dendy and Capitol 6

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