Yes, the title’s based on the John Lennon song, and Nic Sheff (Timothee
Chalamet) is indeed a beautiful boy---and very messed up.
He’s got an addictive personality, and even as a teenager, the
drugs started calling to him. It’s
not that he comes from an abusive home situation.
His Dad, David (Steve Carell) is very supportive, and so is his
stepmother, Karen (Maura Tierney).
In fact, he lives with them during the school year, and goes to
visit Mom, Vicki (Amy Ryan) in California during the summer.
He also loves his two step-siblings, but of course, they are much
younger. Nic’s a talented
artist, interested in creative writing, and appears to be happily
college-bound, but somewhere he loses his way.
The drugs get stronger and the use more frequent.
Then comes the lying and the deceit, followed by the thieving (to
support the drug habit). Then
it’s rehab. AA meetings and
NA meetings. Sponsors who mean
well but their experiences are not the same, either.
Not bothering with college now, just working some menial job
somewhere to develop independence, and then…..falling off the wagon.
You’d think the turning point would be when he almost caused
someone else to OD, but no, he hadn’t hit his own rock bottom yet.
It’s a downward spiral we’ve all seen before, and we’ve all
felt helpless against its magnetic pull.
Steve Carrell is utterly believable as the exasperated Dad who
tries everything: unquestioned
support, fussing, bargaining, tough love.
“Loaning” money and refusing to loan money.
Trying to turn it over to the ex, Vicki, but of course nothing
works there, either. The truth
is, Nic Sheff, like all addicts, has to decide on his own that he’s
going to quit. And after he
makes that decision, the really hard part starts:
the constant yearning, the daily struggle to stay sober and
functional. To address what
Nic calls “the big black void” inside himself that is the real root
cause, from which the drugs were a temporary escape.
Young Timothee Chamalet already has an Oscar nomination, and here
he gets to display his considerable acting range as the likeable, tragic,
shambling, conflicted con artist who can fool everybody except himself.
Director Felix Van Groeningen doesn’t try to oversentimentalize
the family bonds, but we acutely feel every betrayal, and every good
intention gone sour. He tries
to find a silver lining at the end, but by that time we’re thoroughly
beaten down with all the levels of failure.
No, it’s not much fun. But
it’s powerfully portrayed and memorably presented for the imposing and
exhausting conundrum that it is.