Posted on Sunday, September 9th, 2018 by Marshall Shaffer
“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 »