I went to see an advance screening of Beautiful Boy last night, an experience that left me all torn up inside. The taut family drama is based on the bestselling memoirs of David Sheff and his formerly drug-addled son Nicolas Sheff. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, it stars Steve Carell (David Sheff) and Hollywood newcomer Timotée Chalamet (Nic Sheff) as a father and son desperately trying to find the centre.
When Carell discovers that a teenage Chalamet is addicted to crystal meth, he puts his life on hold and dives headfirst into getting his son back. Much to his chagrin, this chivalrous pursuit turns out to be far more arduous than he ever imagined. As the real Sheff makes clear: “Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself.”
What was so sobering about the Amazon production was not the underling storyline so much as the subliminal message that it was broadcasting. That is; some addictions are more or less incurable. I’ve always snubbed my nose at such bold proclamations and have previously pronounced that short of terminal cancer or a head on collision with a mack truck, you can right your wrongs with dedication and persistence.
A few years ago my cousin Karen died of an overdose at thirty-two after suffering with alcohol addiction for over a decade. Yet it wasn’t the alcohol that put the final nail in her coffin. It was a litre of cleaning fluid she had pilfered and consumed in a recovery ward. Her compulsion to forget the drudgery of her life was greater than her will to live.
This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned her passing. It’s not easy to accept the fact that one of your relatives knowingly left behind a family in mourning, parents and siblings that desperately tried to save her from herself.
Except that they couldn’t. No matter the time or money. And so Felix Van Groeningen’s film has helped me to turn a page, to embrace the fact that you need to cherish the good times today because no one knows what’s waiting for us tomorrow.