Never wanting to be left out, I follow social media closely on new films, books, and news. About two weeks ago I started hearing about the film, “Beautiful Boy,” and I told myself that the next time I wasn’t feeling well, I’d curl up and watch it. After all, I have an entire season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” to catch up on.
But after a colleague mentioned it again, and talked about how it hits home for Staten Islanders, I decided to make this movie a priority. I grabbed my tablet, clicked onto Amazon Prime and loaded up the film, directed by Felix van Groeningen, starring Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet.
Right out of the gate, the film – which is based on the memoirs of David (the father, played by Carrell) and Nick Sheff (Chalamet) – hits the ground running, and the audience is immediately aware that this is a family in the throes of addiction. There won’t be much laughter, but I can assure you there will be tears, as David desperately seeks ways to help his drug-addicted son.
Done via flashbacks to Nick as a small child, we see a very idyllic father-son relationship and can’t help but wonder where things went wrong. Here’s a smart kid who gets into the college of his choice, an older brother who is nothing but sweet and fun with his younger half-siblings, yet has fallen into using a myriad of illegal drugs.
The movie doesn’t waste time with the “why” of Nick’s addiction – my guess is because the why really doesn’t matter. Or perhaps there is no “why.” Like so many kids, he experimented, but that can’t have been enough. Regardless, here the family is, despite all of their resources and love and patience, dealing with a situation with which they are totally unfamiliar.
It slapped me in the face. This story could have been told here on Staten Island. I immediately recognized the similarities between the Sheff family and so many families on the Island –thrust into a tailspin of fear, disgust, confusion, anger, and hurt.
As someone who knows several families who have been down this road, I saw their pain, I hugged them in their grief, I prayed for them. But I haven’t lived it and if you haven’t either – this movie is an eye-opener.
David does research - and even uses drugs himself - to try to understand what is happening with his son. In and out of rehab, Nick finally clicks with a sponsor and manages to stay clean for 14 months. But if you thought the credits were going to roll, you’d be wrong.
This film is an emotional roller coaster that mirrors the lives of so many of our neighbors right now. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “why can’t he just stop?” or “why won’t she just quit?” – this film is for you. Watch this family’s experience, feel their anguish and their happiness and their disappointment. It will help you look at those neighbors differently and prevent you from judging what you and I can’t really understand.