VOD film review: Beautiful Boy
James R | On 20, May 2019
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Kaitlyn Dever
Watch Beautiful Boy online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Parenthood, a job that nobody is prepared for, but everyone is primed to do: protect and help another person. Beautiful Boy asks a heart-wrenching question: what if you can’t do either? The Broken Circle Breakdown director Felix van Groeningen is no stranger to extreme emotions and he brings that steady hand to this tale of father and son. David Sheff (Carell) is a journalist with a nice house, a supportive partner, Karen (Maura Tierney), and a charming teenage son, Nic (Timothee Chalamet). But all that spirals into darkness and tragedy when Nic moves from experimenting with marijuana to harder substances and becomes addicted to meth.
Chalamet, who was sensational in Call Me By Your Name, is once again blazingly intense as the once cheerful boy turned withdrawn, angry, dishonest young adult. But Beautiful Boy isn’t solely a story about him. Kaitlyn Dever provides excellent support as Lauren, his girlfriend who is also struggling with addiction. The film draws its power, though, from watching the impact of their addiction upon the family caught in Nic’s orbit. Tierney brings hugely moving support as his concerned, resilient step-mother, but Steve Carell shines the most as the dishevelled dad who can’t move on from the grief of losing the child he knew – but also can’t do anything to put his son’s life back together. Switching from funny to sad to sweet to devastating, often within a single scene, it’s a restrained, delicate turn that finds big sentiment in the tiniest gestures.
It’s a shame, then, that the heavy-handed soundtrack doesn’t quite match that subtlety, as the film goes one step beyond its cast’s strengths to make doubly sure that every possible emotional punch is telegraphed in advance. As a tale of family, loyalty, compassion and heartbreak, there’s no denying the honesty of the performances on screen.
Beautiful Boy is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.