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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a sad poem using simple, straightforward language, and this story of a father mourning his son’s choices seemed like a perfect fit.)

When I first held you in my hands,
A life so small and yet so dear,
I dreamt of all your hopes and plans
That lay so far away from here,
In years ahead, when you perhaps
Did not need me as you did then.
Too soon did all those years elapse,
Too soon you joined the world of men.

You’ve gone your own way, that is clear,
On paths I’d never dreamed before,
And now I wait, with growing fear,
For news that you are here no more.
My son, I love you and I will,
Although you’ve left my heart so sore.
Afar, I stand and love you still
And wish I held you close once more.

MPAA rating:  R (for much language and drug content)

Do you remember the final, heart-breaking scene of Philadelphia, where the film gives us a stark comparison between the disease-ridden character that just died and his innocent child self, subtly asking how someone once so pure could have been brought so low? That’s essentially what Beautiful Boy is, just stretched out to feature-length, yet still quite affecting, thanks to Oscar-worthy turns from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet as a father and son plagued by drug addiction.

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Carell plays real-life journalist and father David Sheff, who in the early 2000s had to endure the pain of watching his son Nic (Chalamet) battle a meth addiction. The story is rife with flashbacks, many of which contrast Nic’s current struggle with his free-spirited childhood, as I said. Some also offer hints of what led him down the dark road to addiction, as when he defends his early gateway drugs in the name of youthful experimentation, just as his father did back in the day. Yet the phase that David grew out of, Nic succumbs to, leading to an emotional rollercoaster as he goes in and out of rehab with David desperate to help him any way he can.

Since it’s what I call a Triple A movie (one that’s All About the Acting), I’m honestly shocked that Beautiful Boy was entirely snubbed by the Oscars, though it did get a couple nominations at the Golden Globes, including one for Chalamet. The repetitive plot ends up feeling longer than it really is, perhaps because it’s emotionally draining as well, but there’s genuine heartfelt talent here, not to mention the extra-timely subject matter, which brings home the personal cost of America’s drug epidemic in stark, sympathetic detail. I’ve personally never understood the attraction to drugs, but this movie brings into focus how destructive they are and how unpredictable their effects can be, with one man’s single experiment becoming another man’s road to addiction.

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I can see why it might not win Best Picture, with its excessive flashbacks and music (occasionally intrusive) stressing how dramatic it is, but the snub is hard to believe, especially compared to 2016’s Manchester By the Sea, another Amazon Studios film that won two Oscars and was dull and inferior next to this film. Chalamet and Carell give exceptional performances, and I highly suspect they’ll both end up with Oscars one of these day, or at least they should.

Best line: (David, to Nic as a child) “Do you know how much I love you? If you could take all the words in the language, it still wouldn’t describe how much I love you. And if you could gather all those words together, it still wouldn’t describe what I feel for you. What I feel for you is everything. I love you more than everything.”


Ranking: List Runner-Up


© 2019 S.G. Liput
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