Beautiful Boy

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Beautiful Boy Movie Poster Image
Agonizing, moving drama about a family torn by tragedy.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

From the wreckage of a terrible tragedy rises one positive message: Time and love can heal and bring forgiveness.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sam's parents, though broken, still find a way to be compassionate and open to what's to come.

Violence

Allusions to and brief news clips about a character who stormed around a college campus and shot innocent bystanders, killing some of them. It's not visually gory, but it's visceral. Some discussion of how he then killed himself (he's shown briefly wielding a gun). Another character has a meltdown at an office and screams at his colleagues. A married couple has a loud, brutally honest argument.

Sex

A couple has drunken sex (not much is seen, though some movements under a sheet suggest intercourse). A bare breast is briefly visible.

Language

Relatively infrequent use of words like "f--k," "hell," and "damn."

Consumerism

Some products like Yoplait and FunYuns are name-dropped or shown, but there's not a lot of selling happening.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A grieving couple gets drunk (drinking shots of hard liquor), trying to momentarily forget their deep-seated sadness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense, deeply moving drama deals with a horrific tragedy: the aftermath of a shooting spree at a college campus. A character is shown wielding a gun, and there are plenty of references to the actual shooting, though there's little actual gore. Still, plenty of psychological wounds are on display, and the subject matter can be quite upsetting/disturbing, especially for younger viewers. There's some swearing (including "f--k") and scenes showing a couple making love (a woman's breast is briefly glimpsed) and getting drunk to forget their pain.

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What's the story?

Their marriage already in tatters, Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen) are pushed further to the brink when they learn that their son, Sam (Kyle Gallner), has died during a horrific shooting at a college campus. In fact, he was the gunman. How can they recover from a tragedy like that? It's incredibly difficult, what with the media glare blinding them, the well-meaning relatives who are seeking answers that Kate and Bill themselves don't hold, and the crushing guilt, shock, and grief they feel as they try to make sense of it all.

Is it any good?

BEAUTIFUL BOY takes viewers to the heart of darkness with its memorable portrait of a couple in crisis. Rather than creating a cinematic car wreck at which audiences would be ashamed to gawk, it's sensitive, wise, and painful beyond most measures. The account it offers -- what happens to the parents of the people who commit such tragic crimes? -- is valuable, challenging us to question the sometimes-paint-by-numbers view we get in the news of the people who hurt others in such spectacularly harrowing ways. The film especially works because of the leads, Bello and Sheen, who commit to the anguish completely.

Is Beautiful Boy a perfect movie? Not at all. Sometimes it explains too much and works too hard to conjure tears. (We are left spent.) It also tries too hard to arrive at a semi-neat explanation behind what may have moved Sam to commit such an act. But is it affecting? In a despondent, melancholic way, yes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays family relationships. Are the characters and their interactions believable? How does the film's central violent act affect them?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about violence in schools: How can they stay safe? Can incidents like the one in the movie be prevented?

  • How do you feel about the way the movie handled the tragic shooting at the center of the plot? Was it depicted sensitively in light of similar real-life events? How does the media typically address this kind of violence?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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