Bill and Kate are in an emotionless marriage with their only son away at college. They knew he didn't sound happy but then comes the news that he was the mass murderer at his school killing 17 professors, fellow students and himself. They try to move on with their lives but they are held back by their own grief and the fact that the media and everyone around them view them as monsters. The more they fight it, they realize they only have each other. Written by
Beautiful Boy is a raw and realistic look at society in which very few filmmakers dare to explore.
Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen) have been struggling with their marriage for years and have decided to give it one final go before actually calling it quits. One night while planning their huge family vacation, their son Sam (Kyle Gallner) calls and seems quite out of it. Both Kate and Bill seem worried but feel that Sam is just having a rough time during his first semester away at college. The next day, life goes on as normal until the couple is notified that their has been a mass shooting at their son's college. Its only a matter of hours before Bill and Kate's already troubled life gets worse as they learn that Sam is not only dead, but the one who began to shoot up the school. A raw, realistic, and heart-wrenching look into our society ensues...
Man, do I love movies like this! I love movies that dare to tackle subject matters that our society just completely ignores. Beautiful Boy is not only a realistic tale about a crumbling marriage, but also a unique look at the family of a trouble college student who did the unthinkable. In a time where school shootings are at an all time high, there comes a movie like this that dares to examine the subject matter from a unique perspective. For years after mass shooting at various schools like Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and of course the notorious Columbine, its about time some filmmaker dared to take a look into this subject and from the parents point of view.
When we hear about school shootings, we always think about the crazy kid who shot up the school, but we never question for a second, what about the parents and how are they taking the news. The media tends to point the blame at the parents and state that they must have screwed the kid up and caused him/her to do that. Why purely blame the parents? Why isn't it on our society? The media? Or even just the large amount of hate in this world. No one can deny that there are some crazy people in this world, but the question that remains is who is to blame and what would ever bring a person to take on such horrific action? No one knows and this film doesn't necessarily answer that questions, but instead does show how hard the parents not only take the loss, but how it makes them feel as people who have to live with knowing what their child is a killer.
While this film not only tackles that difficult subject matter; it also takes a brutally honest look at divorce and the basic struggles of every day life. Many husbands and wives stay together for the kids in our society today. I personally know several people that have stood together for the years when their marriage was on the rocks. Beautiful Boy shows this with Bill and Kate throughout the film and how the couple goes through periods where their love is strong and where it is weak. There is a huge fight scene near the end of the film in which Kate and Bill begin to violently argue about the relationship and whose fault it is that Sam turned out the way he did. That scene would bring tears to the eyes of any couple who has a kid or wants a child. It is gripping, raw, and unforgettable.
In order for this film to work as perfectly as it did, it clearly depended on Maria Bello and Michael Sheen to give realistic and believable performances. Needless to say, they nail it and gave some powerful and gut-wrenching performances. The chemistry and tension that they face is as real as any that I have seen in real life. When they are happy on screen, you are happy and when they are sad and miserable, you are sad and miserable. This film is clearly a character study of Kate and Bill and while there are some great supporting roles its really only those two who we as audience members are focused on. Bello and Sheen are the ones knock this film out of the park and give some truly Oscar worthy performances.
I applaud director/writer Shawn Ku as well as co-writer Michael Armbruster for creating a film that makes our society look at life, marriage, and adolescent violence from a whole new perspective. The script was well written and the scenes were placed perfectly throughout the film to make the movie keep the audience wanting more. The emotional scenes in this film were beautifully captured by Shawn Wu, who seems to have an eye for detail on capturing raw emotion from his actors. With Wu's direction, Beautiful Boy feels makes the audience feel as though we are dealing with the events that are taking place on screen and as filmmakers that is a great accomplishment.
At the end of the day, Beautiful Boy is definitely not the feel good film of the summer, but is probably one of the most powerful and realistic films that I have seen in many years. It's real, raw, and brutally honest and I love that about indie films. I love feeling good when I go to a movie, but I also like movies that tackle issues that are relevant to our society today. This film does that and while many may not appreciate how honest of a film this is, I did and applaud everyone involved for taking on a film of this caliber. Beautiful Boy will more than likely be one of those films that around December of this year that will make it's way onto my " best of" list for the year.
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