He’s really got something this Timothee Chalamet – so gentle in Call Me By Your Name, hilarious in Lady Bird and very touching here as the titular Beautiful Boy, Nic, son of a successful journalist who becomes addicted to crystal meth and in the space of a couple of months becomes an absolute monster.
It’s adapted from the true story told by journalist David Scheff in his book of the same name, and I guess it’s designed to show that the ravages of opiate addiction reach up even to the well-heeled, liberal middle classes of northern California. Indeed, it fair revels in the stylish milieu – I wonder if magazine journalists in the US still earn that sort of money? – and the liberalism.
Told in layers of 90s flashback, we see father (played by Steve Carell in cuddly everyman mode) and son bond over music and surfing and being open and honest and even sharing a joint. But all that sharing goes wrong and there’s nothing Dave can do when Nic spirals into addiction, stealing from his own little half-siblings’ piggy bank.
David will do anything to help Nic, funding rehab, getting schooled up in the science of addiction – but nothing can help.
It’s a sad film but it wants to keep you at a distance. It takes its cue from Chalamet, who’s so good you want to love him and hate him, but you also understand him and can’t blame him for his addictions. He frustrates you, like the film does, but he also charms you and seduces before breaking your heart. The whole process of AA and help groups for parents of AA is hellish, as it’s supposed to be, as it must be for all concerned. It makes you angry.
But this is a film that also comes with a warning, both literal and metaphorical. I couldn’t sleep for worrying what I’d do with my kids. And then there’s the actual fact – as the text on screen at the end points out – that opiate addiction is going crazy right now across America, killing young men and women in their thousands. And no one’s doing much about it.