Beautiful Boy (2018)

Out Now On-Demand

Steve Carell is a father who watches his son (Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name) struggle with meth addiction in this drama based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff. Writer-director Felix Van Groenigen (The Broken Circle Breakdown) chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.


Directed by

Written by



Rating: MA15+ Strong drug use


Beautiful Boy is an ambitious film, one that hopes to make known the exhausting heartbreak of addiction. Unfortunately, it ends up simply exhausting.

Based on a pair of memoirs from father and son David (Steve Carell) and Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet), Beautiful Boy follows their parallel experiences with Nic’s meth addiction. Carrell does a decent job of portraying the parent, as subject of the sentence: a parent’s worst nightmare. Though never entirely convincing, Chalamet’s performance is skillfully bodily; that scrawny hunch, all limbs. Never fully committing to either character’s point of view only hurts the film, as does the offensive underutilisation of Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, who at least do well with the little screen time they were allotted. It was Kaitlyn Dever, though, who really excels, even in the most minor role.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, the film’s first act is choppy and unfocused, structured around flashbacks and flashforwards in a temporality that mirrors Nic’s recurrent rhythm of relapse and recovery. This clever approach, however, is soon abandoned for a more traditional, straightforward narrative, and in that shift the film’s distinction is lost.

The film does have its tender moments—there’s this one gorgeous scene when Nic talks with his kid brother during a family beach trip. And yet, too many unnecessary tangents, bad music cues and heavy-handed exposition involving Nic’s textbook-disturbing drug-addled drawings take away the possibility for sincere emotional resonance. With end titles citing addiction statistics, the film ends up feeling a little like a glorified anti-drug campaign.



While the film lacks narrative momentum, its heart is in the right place, and that's to show the havoc addiction wreaks on families and how those families have no answer for addiction.

Hollywood Reporter


As enacted here by unquestionably fine actors, this story does not emerge as compelling or convincing, and the film is aggravatingly narrow-minded in its interests.

Los Angeles Times


The detachment at work in "Beautiful Boy" suggests an attempt to speak clearly and truthfully, to resist the clichés of the addiction drama while acknowledging that those clichés can hardly be rewritten.

Screen International


Strong, committed performances and the upsetting ring of reality anchor a highly-personal film which cycles through addiction, relapse and rehab in an episodic way, each high as inevitable as the low which follows.

The Guardian


A grim endurance test that's undeniably flawed but in doggedly aiming to portray this unbearable pain with rare authenticity, it has a raw, haunting power.

Variety (USA)


Every last thing the movie shows us about addiction, and the effect it can have upon those who are trying to save an addict from himself, is entirely authentic.

FilmInk (Australia)


An overly worthy and Oscar-bothering piece,

TimeOut (New York)


Parents will feel heard by this movie in a way that few other films have tried. Everyone else should go for the kid, who's a rocket taking off. You want to be able to say you were there when it happened. (Graeme Tuckett)


Beautiful Boy is an attractive and always-watchable film. But considering the ugliness of its subject matter, I'm not sure that's a recommendation.


It's spectacularly performed with its uneasy tale, inapposite (at times) sound design and unbalanced tone; lowering its overall impact.

Carell and Chalamet Shine in Darkness

A tear-jerky true story exploring the collateral damage of drug addiction. Chalamet captures the angsty wasted youth who embarks on a drug addled odyssey while Carell serves as the soft-spoken landing pad father who constantly picks up the broken pieces. Beautiful Boy gives Carell one of his most career defining roles - proving how even the most minor facial expressions can make us laugh - like we did when he was Michael Scott - and cry at the torture his character David Sheff is going through here.