Saturday, August 6, 2011

Beautiful Boy: Movie Review


The beauty of love and the beast of life's realities.

“Beautiful Boy” is about people. Husband Bill (Michael Sheen) and wife Kate (Maria Bello) and their son who is in his first year of college. They have an emotionless marriage, one where things are done logically rather than with feeling. They’re separated, just not physically. Bill is going to save up money, then find an apartment, then put a down payment on it, and then move out. But then comes the news of a mass shooting at their son’s school. The police arrive at their door and the tears start flowing. But, wait, as the cops say, “There’s more.”2010

Directed by: Shawn Ku

Screenplay by: Michael Armbruster and Shawn Ku

Starring: Maria Bello and Michael Sheen

Their son was the mass murderer killing 17 professors and fellow classmates and himself. Especially to Kate, and less so to Bill, they are the victims. To the media, they are the people responsible for creating a monster. This is about their coping, or attempts at coping, with immense feelings of guilt, loss, and sadness. This is not about whether or not guns kill people or people kill people. This is just about people.

With the media at their door and Bill is frustrated and Kate is just confused, the film then sets up some extremely interesting dynamics. Kate’s brother Eric (Alan Tudyk) opens his house to them, but with a young and impressionable son, their sister-in-law Trish (Moon Bloodgood) isn’t quite as welcoming. The tension and repressed feelings were so palpable you could cut through it in the theatre air. Tudyk’s torn love and Bloodgood’s icy stare easily matched Sheen and Bello’s ceaseless emotional range.

When giving us supporting characters whose roles in the couple’s partnership seemed obvious, both the supportive neighbour and the young, handsome writer became more than their cliché counterparts would suggest, and added substantial interest to the already engaging dynamics of all the relationships.

The audience is given plenty of time to cry. Just as the immense grief of the characters can bubble up at any time, you will hear those around you burst into tears at any time. But this isn’t just about feeling pain to move on. This is about people. And the characters here do interesting things during extraordinary times in the response to everyone around them. Kate is told that what they are going through very few people have gone through. Which is true, but we can easily relate to Bill and Kate, understand them, and care for them.

The extreme emotions that Bill and Kate go through are magically portrayed by the ever-charming Michael Sheen and the understated Maria Bello. But it’s more than just extreme emotions, it’s real, everyday emotions. They brought real pause for thought about the fear and grief that parents go through when their child is off at university and sounds depressed and might not be adjusting all that well.

“Beautiful Boy” ends as it began—with people. With Bill and Kate and their marriage, but now with feelings. There’s more emotion than logic involved. And it’s beautiful.
Best of 2011


Rabbit Hole (2010) - Intelligent subtexts to the grief of parents.