Friday, June 3, 2011

Movie with Abe: Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy
Directed by Shawn Ku
Released June 3, 2011

Dealing with death is never an easy thing, and when the circumstances are complicated, it can be even more difficult. Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen), a couple already on the verge of divorce, are confronted with a particularly awful scenario when they hear that there has been a school shooting that claimed numerous lives at their son’s college. In one wrenching scene early in the film, Kate and Bill are informed that their son is dead, but learn an even more horrible truth: that he was the gunman.

A film like “Beautiful Boy” is evidently extremely complex. There needs to be a delicate balance struck to ensure that it is not too depressing and also not inappropriately melodramatic or insensitive. There needs to be a sense of hope present without artificially infusing it into a clearly tragic and devastating story. Framing it with a title like “Beautiful Boy” indicates the complicated nature of the feelings expressed and buried by Kate and Bill as they struggle to accept this horrific turn of events.

The gravity and emotional weight of the story is something that “Beautiful Boy” accomplishes well. At no point does the story feel contrived or forced. Especially in the way that they are unable to articulate their emotions, their pain feels real, and it’s difficult to watch them suffer with the loss they’ve experienced and the dread of knowing that they are the ones being blamed for the loss of many other lives.

At the core of “Beautiful Boy” are the two actors who portray the members of a strained couple who lives are completely torn apart by their son’s killing spree. Sheen dons an American accent and a stiff exterior to play Bill, Kate’s emotionally distant husband who has fully lost interest in maintaining their marriage. Maria Bello, no stranger to playing broken wives, as she has done before in films like “A History of Violence,” channels fury and resentment as Kate, a distraught mother unwilling to accept what the son she raised has done. The film, like many of this genre, has its high points and definitely peaks at one or two moments, remaining relatively slow the rest of the time. It’s not nearly as effective as something like “21 Grams” or “Rabbit Hole,” but it’s still a powerful portrait of what the inexplicable and unfathomable can do to two people and how it can bring them back together.


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