“Beautiful Boy”

“Beautiful Boy”

Before it slipped away to another town, my husband and I caught “Beautiful Boy” at our local movie theater.  It was a weekday.  Only two other couples occupied seats.

Based on David Sheff’s wrenching memoir about his son’s drug use, the film is equally wrenching to watch.  Anyone who has read the book knows the ending: Nick lives to write his own memoir.  Wouldn’t that infuse this film with hope?  Wouldn’t it inspire faith for families about recovery for their loved ones and them?

Somehow, therein it fails.  The acting is real, compelling and mesmerizing.  The setting in northern California is stunning and realistic.  But the story of repeated attempts by the dad to save his son, and the son’s repeated tries to break addiction’s grip, are almost unbearable.  I felt the father’s anguish in trying to find a place that might cure his son, the mother’s determination not to give up, the son’s shame and self-loathing, and the movie’s drumbeat of failure after failure.

Near the end the story reveals its real message.  David is screaming in frustration.   His distress at not being able to find Nick – who has disappeared, once again – foreshadows many more years of heartache.  Addiction won’t let Nick go.  In another frightening scene Nick is injecting heroin with a female companion and nearly kills her.  Crying out in unmitigated fury, David says he has to “fix” his son.  Crying next to him, his young wife of a second marriage screams back, “You can’t!”

At an Al Anon meeting a poster on the wall underscores the three C’s:   You didn’t cause it.  You can’t control it.  You can’t cure it.

For those living through active addiction this may be a movie to miss.  They already endure these hideous scenes every day.

But for those who believe that selecting the right place or sheltering their child at home will “fix” their loved one, it may be worth watching the sad, repetitive and futile attempts of “Beautiful Boy’s” father as he tries to heal his son.  Like him, they will learn that they can’t.

In the end, it’s up to Nick.


7 Replies to ““Beautiful Boy””

  1. Haven’t seen it yet, but your analysis is poignant and relevant to what I have witnessed in my psychiatric practice.

  2. I won’t be able to watch this movie. I watched the trailer. It is just too painful and too real for myself and so many others.

    1. Dale, agree. No need to watch. Too many other wonderful movies out there!
      You do so much. Easy to be proud of you.

  3. Wonderful post, as always, Lisa. I won’t be able to watch this movie. I watched the trailer. It is just too painful and too real for myself and so many others.