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Movie Review: ‘Beautiful Boy’ Captures the Wrenching Agony and Anxiety of Addiction

CREDIT: Francois Duhamel/Amazon Studios

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, Jack Dylan Grazer

Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for Unflinching Drug Injection

Release Date: October 12, 2018 (Limited)

Since becoming the sort of moviegoer who sees as many new releases as possible, I have noticed more and more a certain breed of film that portrays anxiety so unflinchingly that I would never recommend watching it to anyone suffering through their own bouts of anxiety. Perhaps this type of film has been around for decades, and the reason I hadn’t taken notice before was because I would have rarely voluntarily watched them while just hanging out at home, trying to have a good time. But I suspect that it is also true that as a culture we have become more comfortable with portraying mental struggles on screen. Whatever the explanation for this trend, it is time to recognize and codify the Overwhelming Anxiety subgenre for the sake of all moviegoers.

Beautiful Boy might just be the apotheosis of the Overwhelming Anxiety film. It is certainly the most painful example that I can remember. It even features a scene with a doctor examining an MRI scan of an addict’s brain, explaining that the anxiety receptors are essentially screaming out in agony. The addict in question is Nic Sheff, whose mere existence became a constant struggle for his family when he started using methamphetamine as a teenager. Timothée Chalamet plays Nic in a constant state of agony; even in the quieter moments when he seems to be getting by okay, he subtly conveys the black hole in his soul that is impossible to fill except with years of hope and patience. Beautiful Boy is primarily about the destruction that addiction levels against the addict’s loved ones, and bearing the brunt of that is Nic’s father David (Steve Carell). Father and son are like two halves of a whole that cannot possibly disconnect, even when a break seems like it must be the healthiest choice. Carell and Chalamet give performances that are wonders to behold, but just make sure you give your brain a quick health check before you attempt to behold them.

Beautiful Boy is Recommended If You Like: Hoping against hope, Great acting about difficult subject matter

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Addictions

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