First time Director Shawn Ku delivers something important in Beautiful Boy. The film is a story of a grounded middle class American couple Bill and Kate Carroll (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello) who learn of the tragic news that their son Sam (Kyle Gallner) had opened fire at his College, killing many students - before taking his own life. This story though is told from the perspective of the parents, which puts a spin on the norm as we often only see such matters from the eyes of the victims.
Much of the film is divided between Bill and Carroll and thus, v. dependent on the strength of their performances. Sheen and Bello both deliver heartbreaking vulnerability in expressing their characters' pain, fluctuating between acceptance of their loss and emotional breakdowns. We join them on their tender journey and see the challenges they must face beyond losing their only son, but whether it be facing media and social scrutiny, their careers being impacted, in addition to strained relationships with their family members and ultimately, their own love for one another being questioned. This is not a lighthearted film.
Beautiful Boy's ultimate moment comes when tensions within their marriage reach a boiling point, with Bill and Carroll engaging in a painful war of words, blaming one another for their son's actions after failing to understand why all of this has happened. The couple must face the toughest challenge of all in allowing themselves to undergo the pain of mourning.
Aside from shaky camera work and over-utilized grainy texture to its scenes for effect, Beautiful Boy is a pleasure to watch and its outstanding performances from Sheen and Bello cannot be denied. There is no set release date yet for the film. Grade: A-