Toronto Film Review: ‘Beautiful Boy’

Addiction memoirs tend to have a grippingly unsavory, voyeuristic car-crash quality. That’s part of what lures us to them; so does the way that they can leave you feeling, “There but for the grace of God…” “Beautiful Boy,” starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, is based on a pair of best-selling memoirs by the San Francisco-based journalist David Sheff and his oldest son, Nic, that chronicled Nic’s descent into crystal-meth addiction. The movie puts the books together, dramatizing the perils of addiction from the inside and the outside. But mostly we see it from the outside. In essence, “Beautiful Boy” tells the story of David Sheff’s anguished but impotent crusade to snatch his son from the jaws of a life-crushing drug dependence.

The more the film goes on, the more he realizes he’s doomed to fail. Nic is still the son he adores, but the lust for drugs takes on a harrowing life of its own. “Beautiful Boy,” made by the Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”), from a script by Luke Davies, is scrupulous and tenderly wounding — a drama that seizes and holds you. It’s a compelling movie whether or not it happens to speak to you personally, yet you can bet that a lot of people who have stood by and watched members of their families succumb to drug addiction are going to want to see it.

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