5 August 2011 | Rockwell_Cronenberg
A unique take with two powerhouse performances.
It seems that Hollywood, especially lately, has been in the habit of giving us films dealing with parents suffering the loss of a child. We see them scream, we see them cry, we see them go through the same routine. Beautiful Boy takes this theme and puts a unique, much more tragic, spin on it. Michael Sheen and Maria Bello play parents who lose their college-age son, but worse is their son died after shooting up his school. So along with them having to grieve the loss of their boy, they have to suffer the scrutiny of the media attacking their son and them publicly, along with fighting themselves in trying to figure out what led to this awful thing happening. They fight with whether they're responsible, whether they should take time to grieve or try to go back into things and as many other things as you can think of in this struggle for normalcy in understanding when everything else is fighting against them.
Of course anything dealing with themes like this gives way to a lot of opportunity for melodrama. There's a subplot with a novelist that is very silly and expected and a few other scenes that rang false, but for the most part the film was surprisingly honest and from the heart. These characters suffer in real ways and even though the film initially splits the two into stereotypes, Bello having the hysterical screams and disbelief and Sheen with the stunned silence, as it progresses they both go through phases of devastation, denial and just a need to understand and get past it. It doesn't do anything particularly unique in how they grieve, but the two performers make you feel everything these characters go through. They bring a lot of power to their roles and it can definitely hit very hard at times.
Both Sheen and Bello have always been fine actors who rarely get the chance to demonstrate their immense talents. Here they are given full opportunity to let their skills show and neither of them hesitate to do so. Whether they are having a shouting match in a hotel room, consoling one another in tears or just silently trying to deal with this huge tragedy, it's hard to take your eyes off either of them. It definitely goes down the expected path, but these two make it well worth watching with their powerhouse performances and I did admire the slight turn on what had kind of become a tired setup. Making the son this kind of person added a lot of layers to the struggle these two had to go through.