October 10, 2011

Filthy Review - Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

How would you react if your son or daughter was the victim of a violent crime? I can only imagine the suffering that would follow. How then would you react if your child was not only a victim, but also the perpetrator of the crime? This is the plot behind director Shawn Ku’s 2010 movie Beautiful Boy. Believe me when I tell you that it is powerful viewing from start to finish.

Kate and Bill (Maria Bello and Michael Sheen) are a couple whose marriage is on really rocky ground, bordering on Bill moving out and with only passing civil conversation between each other. Their son (A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Kyle Gallner) is away at his first year of college, and a brief phone call to his parents emphasizes that something is not quite right. The next day Kate and Bill learn that there has been a shooting at the college.

The film itself does not deal directly with the shooting, relying instead on short news reports and word of mouth to portray the event. Instead the film focuses entirely on the events and aftermath purely from the parent’s point of view, the press, their own family and the public in general. The whole time having to deal with their own feelings towards each other in the face of such tragic events.

Maria Bello and Michael Sheen really are the very core of this film, I can’t recall one scene in which one or the other aren’t on screen. The pain, and guilt, their characters are feeling comes through perfectly clearly. Kate throws herself into doing whatever she can to keep busy and take her mind of events, whilst Bill’s emotional detachment from world is only further exacerbated when confronted with the aftermath. They continually question their roles as parents and whether it was something they did or didn’t to that results in their son’s actions.

At times uncomfortable to watch, at times painful to watch, Beautiful Boy however is always compelling viewing. It is the kind of movie where you will find yourself constantly asking yourself questions as to what you would do. Of course, I don’t think any of us could truly answer them without first going through something like this. Beautiful Boy is emotional viewing but it is not a movie that cranks up the melodrama in order to illicit a response from the viewer, instead it relies on the events themselves which speak for themselves. You will feel the pain, anger and frustration of the parents as the camera follows them throughout with its almost intrusive and claustrophobic style.

The entire cast is superb throughout with both Bello and Sheen outstanding in the lead roles. Genre fans might be intrigued to know that Tucker himself, Alan Tudyk (Tucker and Dale vs Evil), plays Kate’s sister and is a million miles away from his role in the horror comedy also from 2010. Meat Loaf also pops up in a small role, but all involved are nothing less than superb. The direction from Shawn Ku is perfectly executed, and considering that this is his debut feature film can only bode well for the future as he has crafted an incredibly good movie.

Beautiful Boy will have you thinking, and talking, about the movie long after it finishes. It is probably as far from a feel good movie as you can get, yet it is an almost uplifting experience to watch and one of the best movies I have seen this year.

Beautiful Boy is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay

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