There are some things in life I will never be able to relate to. Famous sports athlete, sorry missed out on that boat when I walked off the baseball team in high school. President of the United States, I need more than the votes of my wife and parents. But there are other things on a smaller scale I can’t relate to either. Like children. I will never how it is to have my own children. While I have certainly accepted this fact and I am okay with it, sometimes movies come along with themes that are foreign to me. Enter Beautiful Boy.
We open up to some home videos at the beach. A family can be seen in what would be their last vacation together before the son would eventually go off to college. We slowly pan in to Sam (played by Kyle Gallner) who is reading his essay to a very disinterested class. Dejected, Sam finishes and sits back down. Life is difficult at the new college and Sam is finding it hard to adapt.
Next, we meet Sam’s dad, Bill (played by Michael Sheen) is an accomplished businessman who is very devoted to his work. But when we meet Bill, he is surfing the web, looking at apartments. He also has a habit of missing his wife’s phone calls and not returning them. Kate, his wife (played by Maria Bello) is also dedicated to her job as a proofreader who has time to help to try and the plan “the” family vacation and help her neighbors.
At home, there is not much of an existence either. They don’t eat dinner together and barely speak to each other. If they speak about anything, it might be the family vacation and they just end up arguing about it at some point. Even a phone call to Sam produces a listless conversation where mom is not sure what to say to her son and Bill barely says anything at all. It only makes Sam feel worse than he already as he says goodbye to his mother. To cap off the night, the parents sleep in separate rooms.
The next day, Bill is still looking at apartments on the web when he sees his co-workers huddled around a television. It appears there is a Campus massacre at the same college Sam goes to. Lots of kids were shot before the murderer turned the guy on himself. Kate hears the news as well and tries to get a hold of Sam and see if he is okay. Unfortunately, nobody answers the phone. At first, Kate and Bill want to drive up there to see him but decide to wait it out.
Later, the cops show up and knock on the door. Kate, realizing what the cops are about to tell her starts to sob. She asks the cops if her son is dead to which they reply, “Yes”. With Bill standing in the hallway listening, the cops also tell her the other part of the news. Sam was also the one who turned the gun on the students before turning it on himself. Bill and Kate look on in disbelief. Both coping with the pain in their own way, they must contend with the media, their neighbors as well as each other.
The rest of the movie explores the relationship on its in and outs, at high points and low points. The couple faces incredible backlash from everybody in the community. Every time they turn on the television, they see some talk show host who tries to blame the parents. It is an incredibly hard thing to live through but above all this couple has to somehow make this journey together and make the marriage last. But none of this movie could work if it wasn’t from the acting work of Michael Sheen and Maria Bello.
The pair of Michael Sheen and Maria Bello develop an excellent chemistry. They bounce scenes off each other with both of them delivering in most of the scenes. There are some very deep moments going on here and some difficult issues. They force some levity here and there but honestly it’s only so the audience doesn’t blow their brains out. It’s highly depressing but without spoiling too much, there is a glimmer of hope nestled inside this drama oriented tale.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. Color is excellent here and despite the theme being overly depressing, there is a lot of peaceful environment to look at. Flesh tones appear to be accurate and for a smaller budget film, this does great at showing textures and keeping the blacks at an absolute minimum. Good stuff and what you would expect.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 True HD track (Spanish Mono also included) in English. I know this movie is supposed to be low key, but truth is the volume is really small and pithy. Dialog is capable but barely. Many conversations except for key moments come out at a whisper. Surround is barely used and this highly smells of a stereo track upconverted to HD format. Subtitles were provided in English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: 5 Days of War.
- Audio Commentary : Shawn Ku (writer/director), Chad Galster (editor), Michael Fimognani (Cinematographer) take up the talks here. It is one of those commentaries where you get a lot of information for budding indie directors. Good talk and it honestly sounded like they could have went another couple of hours.
- Deleted Scenes 2:06: Only two are provided and they are just extensions of other scenes. I can see why these were cut, mostly a case of bad pacing.
- Trailer 1:58: The trailer ends our time at Beautiful Boy, let us proceed to the final comments.
Beautiful Boy is a perfect example of the movie that I have trouble really relating to a score. The acting is top notch and really hinges on the chemistry between Michael Sheen and Maria Bello. But alas, the whole thing is way too depressing for me. At least, there are moments of levity and hope. The disc is mostly a mixed bag with great video, pithy audio and average extras. I give this one a mild recommendation as long as you don’t mind something depressing and have Kleenex handy. This is a tear fest for sure.