"Beautiful Boy" stars Academy Award nominees Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet. (Illustration by Kristen Lucius, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
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The film captures the horror of substance abuse through the intimacy of father-son relationship.

Felix Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy” stars Academy Award nominees Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet. The story has been adapted from two memoirs, and focuses on a father’s efforts to save his son from addiction.

In both the film and the books, Nicolas Sheff (Chalamet) is the oldest of three children. He dropped out of Berkeley and completed his freshman year at another university. He’s described as thin, lanky and having dark eyes. His appearance turns out to be a hint, as Nicolas has been 150 days clean of methamphetamine. However, Nicolas only comes clean after David (Carrell), his father, demands why he’s been coming home late. Nicolas becomes angry and irritated, and before running off, he admits that he has been “using” for the whole semester and since he returned home.

David eventually forces Nicolas to confront his meth addiction. (Image via Consequence of Sound)
David eventually forces Nicolas to confront his meth addiction. (Image via Consequence of Sound)

Meth is an addictive stimulate drug that affects the body and brain. According to American Addiction Centers, meth comes in two forms: white powder or a glass-like substance referred to as crystal meth; both types can be smoked, snorted, injected and swallowed. The drug heightens areas in the brain and the nervous system that include your heart rate, body temperature, respiration and blood pressure.

While under the influence of meth, a user’s energy levels are heightened, making them alert and excited for long periods of time. However, the excitement felt by users eventually ends, which is referred to as a “crash.” In the “crash” stage, the user typically becomes anxious, tired and depressed. After this stage, a rush called a “run” occurs where the user takes the drug again to mimic the elation they’d experienced before. The user binges and becomes dependent on it. The more the user takes the drug, the higher their tolerance becomes, increasing the dose required to feel a high.

Nicolas claimed to have applied for a job while attending Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) meetings, but that isn’t the case. Nicolas was a smart and kind boy, and many people thought he couldn’t be an addict because of his character. However, oftentimes, the ones who seem nice, quiet and smart are typically prone to using hard substances. Nicolas is charismatic and charming, but under the meth influence, he’s dangerous, distant and self-destructive. Nicolas becomes a different person as the movie progresses.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), long-term abuse of meth can damage the dopamine cells and other nerve cells called serotonin. The user can also experience emotional and cognitive issues such as depression, paranoia, anxiety, violent outbursts, delusions and aggressive behaviors. There are more to this list, but with further use, meth affects the user physically. The user loses weight and is susceptible to sexual transmitted diseases because of their failing immune system.

“Beautiful Boy” tells the story of Nicolas, but it also shares his father’s point of view. When a loved one is abusing drugs, it doesn’t only affect the addict, but their family members as well. David is a divorcee who split from his wife, Vicki, in 1985, three years after Nicolas’ birth. Vicki moved to Los Angeles and remarried while David stayed in in San Francisco.

Nicolas underwent therapy at a young age, unsure of his future. David feels he caused his son’s addiction because he was unaware of his son’s suffering. In AA meetings, David goes through the three C’s: he didn’t cause it, he can’t control it and he can’t cure it.

Nicolas' broken family plays a large role in his drug addiction. (Image via USA Today)
Nicolas’ broken family plays a large role in his drug addiction. (Image via USA Today)

In the film, David is angry that his son is suffering and is frustrated by his inability help him. The hopelessness he feels resonates with a lot of families who experience similar situations. It’s a touchy subject to some, but some families and victims use stories such as “Beautiful Boy” to help them find help and some sort of meaning. It’s comforting for them to know there are others facing issues of drug addiction.

As David tries to save his son from addiction, he’s able to come to terms with two of the C’s. David can’t cure his son or control his addiction. He only believes that he can help his son fight it off. However, this is Nicolas’s fight, and it’s time for him to decide what life he will choose to live. “Beautiful Boy” is a dramatic film that features difficult elements and scenes, but they represent the Sheff’s truth vividly.

In an interview with ET Canada, both Carell and Chalamet shared their views about addiction and how “Beautiful Boy” depicts drug abuse. Carell said “It’s not selective in any way. This can happen to anybody. It doesn’t discriminate.”

David never thought his son or any members of his family would experience addiction. No parent does. Chalamet said that addiction is the “biggest killer in the States,” and expressed how young people often fall to pray on new trends.

Although David accepted that his son must choose a life path for himself, Nicolas had been a year sober at the time the book was published in 2008. David only hopes he stays sober, as relapses can happen at any time. The National Institute of Drug Abuse says that relapse are between 40 – 60 percent likely.

“Beautiful Boy” focuses on a father’s effort to save his son from addiction. The dramatic, based-on-a-true-story film divulges into the harsh truths and realities of drug abuse. The on-screen horrors faced by drug users and their loved ones will be a wake-up call for many audience members.

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