In a large theatre that was unusually empty apart from my friend who tagged along and a few older gentlemen, I expected to be the only individual stoked to see another sure-to-be riveting performance by Timotheé Chalamet. To my surprise, the chatter before the show was filled with praise for the young actor. I even heard a few “I’m only here for Elio” comments.
That said, Beautiful Boy is vastly different from the summer romance of Call Me By Your Name.
Based on a true story depicting the devastating vicious cycle of recovery and relapse and the effect addiction has on a father and son, this film could not have had better timing. Pop culture hasn’t been immune to the addiction epidemic as of late. With the recent passing of rappers Lil Peep and Mac Miller, and the almost life threatening overdose of Demi Lovato, the media has thankfully started to pay more attention to this problem. Beautiful Boy successfully catalyzes this trend.
A large part of understanding the epidemic is first having sympathy for those affected. In the film, Steve Carrel, who plays David Chef, embodies the overprotective father archetype perfectly. Carrel’s performance allowed me to feel protective of Nic and concerned for his wellbeing and recovery. Similarly, Chalamet, who plays Chef’s son Nic, could not have been better fit for this character. I would not be surprised to see his name on the Oscar list for best supporting actor. His portrayal of addiction was honest and compelling; I left the theatre with a headache due to the stress. But that’s the point of telling stories like this one - they’re supposed to stress you out, they’re supposed to make you uncomfortable. It’s this stress and discomfort that provokes an audience to take action, or have sympathy at the very least.
Along with the moral of the storyline, Beautiful Boy was enthralling to watch cinematically, as well. The theme focuses a lot on nature. Throughout the movie there are landscape shots of large redwoods in the forests of the Bay Area as well as the Pacific Coast. I understood this as a way of depicting addiction as something – although horrible – still real and natural and human. Furthermore, the use of flashbacks in the film was appealing to watch as well. There’s something to be said about a film that keeps you guessing. Ambiguity and nuance allow room for variations in interpretation, and Beautiful Boy does that well with a lot of these flashbacks. There were times throughout the movie where I wasn’t sure which scene was the flashback and which was real time. All I knew was that the color composition and mood shift created this strong juxtaposition that suggested a time lapse I hadn’t realized before.
Overall, the poetic nature of both the artistic cinematography, as well as the movie’s moral elements, produced an authentic movie that I strongly suggest everyone watch. Whether you loved Elio and are craving to witness another dose of Chalamet’s raw talent, or you simply appreciate work you can be emotionally invested in, Beautiful Boy will not disappoint.