“Beautiful Boy” is heartbreaking in print and on the screen

Beautiful Boy: Book vs. Movie

“Drugs are bad. Say no.” How many times have you heard these words? Most people have been told or at least know about drugs by the time they are 10 years old. From a young age we are told “no”. Though no one really questioned it. From society, we know that they are destructive, can lead to addiction, and in extreme cases, death. David Sheff, author of “Beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction” documents his experience with drugs and showcases the brutal reality of its effects.

He takes an interesting perspective focusing not only on the addicted but the toll it takes on their family, friends, and loved ones. His inspiration to write the book came from an article he wrote, “My Addicted Son” in the New York Times.

The book’s main character is Nic Sheff, a son, a brother, and a friend. He had done drugs since he was eleven, but when he was 18 he found methamphetamine or crystal meth, his drug of choice. The story is centered around the struggles his family faced while he went down an irreversible path. The book is written from his fathers perspective: the worry, the fear, the lack of control, the guilt, and the anger that he felt as he watched his son’s life implode right before him.

While the topic of the story is pretty heavy, I love it and most audience members would too. The writing is phenomenal. The structure of the novel is amazing and well organized, making it easy for the reader to follow. While I can’t relate to it personally, the emotional journey is incredible.

Years after the 2008 original release, it was turned into a film directed by Felix Van Groeiningen, starring Steve Carrel as David Sheff and Timothee Chalamet as Nic Sheff. By the time the film was made (2018) Nic sheff had been sober since 2011 (7 years) and written several books. The movie is a hybrid of “Beautiful boy: a fathers journey through his son’s addiction” and Nic Sheff’s memoir “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamine”. Capturing both sides of the same coin, the worry and frustration his father feels, and Nic’s insatiable thirst for a stronger high.

The novel talks a great deal about the drug and the effects it has on the body. It also provides details and events in Nic and his family’s life that the movie doesn’t. It includes more personal moments between David and Nic from when he was young and as he struggles greatly trying to get clean and get his life back on track.

The movie is rated Pg-13 which is fair considering the amount of drug related material there is. There is also heavy language, heated arguments and heavy topics all around. Although the movie was great, it was not as good as the book. I wish that Nic’s siblings were talked about some more, like in the book.

Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell were really great together. They portrayed that father-son dynamic really well. The pull of his father wanting what is best for his son, who only wants to be on his own, oblivious to the black whole he has created was shown between the strong performances put on by both of the actors

Nic Sheff admitted in an interview once that “Tim really knocked the pull of temptation vs logic out of the ballpark.” He portrayed the “two sides” of Nic perfectly from what I can tell, he would be happy and playing with his young siblings one minute, and completely off the rails cursing everyone out the next. The worst part was, that he didn’t even realize the effects it had on the people around him.

In the end, after an astronomical relapse and an overdose that should have killed him, Nic finally got serious about rehab. He has now been sober for 12 years after being intermittently sober for 10. He finished college, is married now, and continues writing. He also works at a rehab center for drug addicts. All in all I think the book or the movie is a great way to spend your time and you won’t regret it.