Edition 1 February 2019, by Benjamin Roberts
In 2017, more than 72,000 deaths in the US were caused by a drug overdoses. One of the drugs causing those deaths is crystal methamphetamine, or crystal meth, as it is commonly known. Unlike ‘doing a line of coke’ or ‘slipping a XTC pill’ on the weekend, which are considered middle class and rich-kid substances, crystal meth is socially considered a poor man’s drug because it can be made at home from simple household products such as paint thinner, Lithium from batteries, drain cleaner.
However, in Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeningen’s film, Beautiful Boy (2018) that stereotype has changed drastically. The screenplay based on David Sheff’s book, Beautiful Boy. A Father’s Journey Through his Son’s Addiction, and Nic Scheff’s book, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines tells the story of how David, a college professor deals, with the crystal meth drug addiction of his teenage son, Nic.
The prologue of drug-addict kids is almost a cliché. They grow up in dysfunctional homes, and did not get enough love and attention from their parents, and or were abused. And when they become teenagers, they get hooked on drugs. However, in Beautiful Boy that is not the case. Nic grows up with a loving and understanding father, and father and son have a good and open relationship. His parents are divorced but they are on good terms when it comes to raising their ‘Beautiful Boy’ Nic.
For the movie- going audience, things get complicated now. Nic, played by Timothée Chalamet, the 23-year old actor who was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in Call Me By Your Name (2017), is a sensitive and intelligent young man that can easily discuss his problems with his father David, played by Steve Carell, Yet in his darkest hour, Nic reverts back to crystal meth and disappears for days leaving his family worried sick. His crystal meth binges end after he runs out of money and calls his unconditionally- loving father and asks him for help and money. Overwhelmed with joy that his son is still alive, David runs off and helps Nic, not knowing what else to do. With the painful long silences, the Belgian director, Van Groeningen intensifies the unspoken frustration David endures with his son and not knowing what to do. Driven to sheer despair David has to cut his ties with Nic, And oddly enough, that’s when Nic starts to get his life together and give up drugs. Beautiful Boy reveals how crystal meth addiction is no longer the evil of low-income America, but has moved into middle class, and upper-middle class suburbs. Now it’s a societal problem that needs to be addressed.