"Beautiful Boy" Earns Rave Reviews For Its Raw Portrayal Of Addiction

By Kelly Burch 10/10/18

The movie is based on the bestselling addiction memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff. 

Steve Carell in a scene from "Beautiful Boy"
Photo via YouTube

In the new film Beautiful Boy, Steve Carell plays a man trying desperately to save his son from addiction. 

The movie, in theaters Oct. 12, is an adaptation of a book by the same name by the journalist David Sheff and the memoir Tweak, by Sheff’s son Nic.

While Sheff wrote about trying to help his son, Nic wrote a firsthand account of his addiction. Both books became bestsellers.

In an interview with Time, Carell said that he is careful not to own the Sheffs’ stories when he speaks about the film. “Talking about the movie is almost as daunting as doing the movie,” Carell said. “You don’t want to speak as if you’re an authority.”

Carell said that as a parent he related to his character, David, and his desperate bid to find help for Nic.

“Being a dad, there’s an inherent worry you have as soon as you have kids that never goes away,” Carell said. “To experience them spiraling out of control with absolutely no recourse…” He paused. “David was mourning his son while his son was still alive.”

Timothée Chalamet plays Nic. The 22-year-old actor said that using drugs has become “masochistically glorified” among youth.

“Young people have such disillusionment with our post-post-post-industrial world, where student debt is crazy and job opportunities are less afforded to people,” Chalamet said. “Opiates have become the drug of choice, as opposed to drugs in the ’60s like LSD that amplified your surroundings—these are drugs that will numb you regardless of how terrible your environment is, and you’re guaranteed the same feeling each time.”

He added that he has seen friends struggle with addiction to cope with their negative feelings.

“There’s a misconception that addicts are using with a great amount of euphoria, when in reality, they’re just keeping up a feeling, or avoiding reality,” Chalamet said.

Carell and Chalamet said that they hope the film provides a realistic glimpse into the complications and heartbreak of addiction, just like the Sheffs do in their books.

“Clearly it’s important to us, or else we wouldn’t have done it,” Carell said. “But when you get the question, ‘Why should people see this film?’ How do you even respond to that? Because it’s compelling and emotionally resonant?”

They also want the movie to build compassion for families touched by addiction. “We talk about drug abuse as a moral failing,” Chalamet said. “For us, that’s a hope for the movie: that it starts a conversation to see it not as a taboo.”

Families that have dealt with addiction will likely relate to what they see onscreen. 

“People are bracing for a really difficult ending,” Chalamet said. “Or something that ends with a flourish—a montage of hope or something. But this is just scene after scene where we tried to do it as diligently as possible.” 

“In my understanding, that’s the reality of addiction,” Chalamet said. “It’s one day at a time. You’ve never really won the fight.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.