Addiction doesn’t just affect people who are abusing drugs or alcohol. It affects the person’s family and friends as well, and Beautiful Boy does an amazing job of depicting this.
Beautiful Boy is a graphic illustration of how addiction impacts the user and those around him or her. The 2018 film stars Steve Carell as David Sheff and Timothée Chalamet as his son, Nic. It’s based on David’s memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction as well as Nic’s memoir Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. Nic is also the author of the memoir We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction.
Using the Sheffs’ real lives, the film Beautiful Boy depicts Nic’s addictions to methamphetamine (meth) and other drugs and how they have impacted him and his family. The plot sounds simple but the story is anything but. The movie takes you on a roller coaster of emotions and truly provides insight into what these people are going through.
It’s an accurate portrayal of drug addiction partially because it’s based on a true story. It’s also, unfortunately, a common story. Millions of U.S. residents struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. In 2017, drug overdoses killed 70,237 people in the country.
Nic struggles with drug abuse, he seeks help through rehabilitation centers and 12-step programs, he finds recovery, and he relapses. Those are all-too-common occurrences for people with drug addictions or alcoholism.
His family also rides the roller coaster of addiction, recovery, and relapse. Nic’s actions affect the marriage of his father and his stepmother, Karen, played by Maura Tierney in the film. David and his ex-wife, Vicki (portrayed by Amy Ryan), also struggle to coparent Nic during tumultuous times.
Even the youngest members of the Sheff family experience the pain of addiction. Nic’s young stepbrother and stepsister, Jasper and Daisy, are overjoyed when a sober Nic re-enters their lives and ask confused questions when he’s absent. David has trouble enjoying Jasper and Daisy’s triumphs because he’s consumed with worry about Nic.
For parts of the film, David, Vicki, and Karen don’t know if Nic is alive or dead, safe or in danger, using or sober. They don’t know where he is or when they’ll see him next. The uncertainty weighs on their minds regardless of whatever else is happening.
Just as Nic seeks help for his problems, so do the adults in his life. They accompany him to sobriety meetings. David consults with specialists to learn about drugs and what they’re doing to his beloved son. These actions mirror real-life options, as people may find help by attending family therapy sessions or meetings of sobriety organizations. The film does a great job of portryaing the emotions family members go through (anger, sadness, hopelessness and frustration).
Beautiful Boy honestly depicts addiction and recovery. It portrays recovery as not a one-and-done type of action but an ongoing process. It depicts chapters in the lives of the Sheff family, a story that still continues.
About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor who has written about a wide variety of topics, including physical and mental health, addiction, human rights, and gender.