Beautiful Boy Review

Certainly a work that will be discussed come awards season is Beautiful Boy, the latest from Belgian-born director Felix Van Groeningen, whose 2014 movie The Broken Circle Breakdown was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Beautiful Boy was adapted (by the filmmaker and co-writer Luke Davies) from the best-selling memoir of the same name by acclaimed writer David Sheff, as well as the companion book “Tweak,” by his son Nic Sheff, whose journey through drug addiction, recovery, relapse and survival serve as the basis for both works, each told from a unique perspective over many years.

Steve Carell delivers a strong central performance as David, with Timothée Chalamet (cast for this role before any of his memorable 2017 works were released) taking on the role of drug-addled Nic. The film also stars Maura Tierney as David’s current wife, Amy Ryan as his ex-wife (and Nic’s mother), and Kaitlyn Dever as Nic’s drug-buddy girlfriend Lauren, with whom he commits the ultimate act of betrayal against his family.

/Film spoke to Van Groeningen at the Chicago International Film Festival, where Beautiful Boy was the Opening Night screening. We covered such topics as how the memoirs ignited personal memories from his own life; casting Carell and Chalamet; and his warning/message of hope in the film’s final moments. The film is currently in limited release, opening wider over the next few weeks.

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beautiful boy trailer

As soon as Beautiful Boy made its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, it became immediately clear that Timothée Chalamet is due for another Oscar nomination. The 22-year-old actor stunned last year in Call Me By Your Name, and is already a shoo-in for the Oscar race with his role as a struggling teen drug addict in Beautiful Boy.

That’s not to say that Steve Carell, who plays his father, isn’t receiving raves himself — the buzz around Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen‘s English-language debut is all about both beautiful boys.

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Beautiful Boy Review

“I don’t look at Nic the way I look at the other addicts in the room,” wrote David Sheff about his son Nic in his memoir Beautiful Boy. “Nic is a smart kid who has gone way out of control.”

The disease of addiction is rife with contradiction such as these. It can leave a person’s outside entirely in tact while eating them from the outside in. The very things that make someone charming and winning might become the very cudgels they wield in order to squeeze their loved ones for support. The addict, unlike a cancer patient, holds all the power to stop the pain inflicted to their body, yet the condition saps their agency to do what they know is necessary. And then, of course, there’s the famously paradoxical maxim: relapse is a part of recovery.

Beautiful Boy’s director and co-screenwriter Felix van Groeningen digs in and embraces the frustration these opposing truths cause in the minds of all those affected by addiction. He’s an inspired choice to bring David and Nic Sheff’s story to life given that his international breakout feature, 2013’s The Broken Circle Breakdown, depicts a similarly tragic journey as the illness of a child slowly gnaws away at the sanity of an entire family. Van Groeningen, who collaborated with Luke Davies on the adaptation, even utilizes a similar narrative technique to tell the story. Rather than charting the progress of the disease chronologically, he cuts between the happy times and the tragic ones. The adjacency of these two timelines makes their divergence all the more harrowing. Health and happiness are both so near and so unattainable in Beautiful Boy. Read More »

The Broken Circle Breakdown

It’ll be a while yet before we find out which English-language films are up for the Oscars, but the Best Foreign Language Film category has already been narrowed down to nine contenders.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Scientists has just revealed its shortlist of nine foreign films which will be competing for five slots when the nominations are announced on January 16. Among the semifinalists are Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, the Mads Mikkelsen-starring The Hunt, and Belgium’s bluegrass romance The Broken Circle Breakdown (pictured above). Read the rest after the jump.

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