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dir Felix Van Groeningen
scr Luke Davies, Felix Van Groeningen
prd Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt, Jeremy Kleiner
with Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Timothy Hutton, LisaGay Hamilton, Jack Dylan Grazer, Kue Lawrence, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull
release US 12.Oct.18, UK 18.Jan.18
18/US Amazon 2h00
How can I help? Chalamet and Carell
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Based on father and son memoirs, this is a true story about a family dealing with drug addiction. It's not an easy watch, but Belgian filmmaker Felix Van Groeningen brings a poetic quality to the narrative, spiralling around to focus on the emotional connections between the characters. This gives the film a powerful sense of hopefulness even within a darkly harrowing situation.
David (Carell) is struggling to understand why his son Nic has gone from a bright young boy (Lawrence, then Grazer) to a smart teen (Chalamet) addicted to a range of drugs. With his wife Karen (Tierney) and Nic's mother Vicki (Ryan), David is doing everything he can to stop Nic's downward spiral. But each stint in rehab is followed by a relapse, and since crystal meth actually rewires an addict's brain, breaking the cycle is almost impossible. Nic has the will to change, but staying sober isn't easy for him.
Refreshingly, the film never tries to blame his drug habit on an outside event. Nic admits he likes how drugs make him feel. And as he sinks deeper into a junkie lifestyle, the irony is bold: he may feel amazing, but the reality is that he's lying on a disgusting bathroom floor. Yes, the filmmakers are never terribly subtle about the issue at hand, and the movie rightfully feels cautionary as it laces the dialog with telling details.
By contrast, performances are understated. Chalamet gives Nic a likeable personality so that, like David, we can't understand why he's so easily abandoning his life. In his attempts to appear sober, Chalamet layers terrific details that reveal Nic's thoughts and feelings, as well as his yearning to reconnect with his family. Carell is also excellent as the emotionally raw journalist willing to do anything for his son. And Tierney has a few strong moments of her own as a fully invested wife and stepmom.
The way Van Groeningen assembles this film is skilful and artistic, shifting around in time to explore the events in a more thematic way. This means that the narrative frequently builds to devastating emotional peaks, drawing on the finely nuanced performances as well as the strong points of resonance in each audience member. Almost everyone can understand the feelings of frustration, fear and grief when a loved one takes an unexpected path. And the sensitive filmmaking, astute acting and sharp first-person perspective makes this film darkly haunting.
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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