Dallas IFF ’11: Beautiful Boy – Review


This will be the film to remember from the 2011 Dallas International Film Festival

Many films have explored the tragedy of school shootings; the influences of the shooter, and the events of the immediate aftermath. But none have shown the effects on the parents of the shooter like in the heartbreaking, emotional new film Beautiful Boy. The film had its US premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival this week, after holding its world release at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The film is directed by Shawn Ku and co-written by Ku and Dallas native Michael Armbruster.

Bill and Kate Carroll (Michael Sheen, Maria Bello) are strangers living in the same house. Their only son Sam (Kyle Gallner) has left for college, and now that they’re empty nesters, they’re finally making progress on getting the divorce they’ve wanted for so long. Still trying to keep up appearances for their son, during a phone call with him, they make plans for their family vacation.

The very next morning, the TV is flooded with news about a shooting at the very college their son attended. Seventeen people were killed, and Bill and Kate are frantic to reach their son to make sure he is safe. Their fears are realized when they receive a knock on their door from the police, only they give Bill and Kate the worst news possible: their son Sam is the one responsible for the shootings and has committed suicide.

After this devastating news, Bill and Kate, a couple who were already on the verge of ending their marriage, has to fight off reporters while dealing with the loss of their only son. As they come to grips with reality, Bill and Kate are faced with reminders of their son’s actions on every television and from every person they come into contact with. When they attempt to flee their neighborhood and check into a motel where they won’t be noticed, the man at the counter (Meat Loaf) is watching the news broadcasts of the recent developments in the story.

Director Shawn Ku treats the material so tenderly that each argument Bill and Kate get into, each hurtful thing they say one another, is felt directly through the screen. The audience at the Dallas International Film Festival was literally in tears. Michael Sheen and Maria Bello both give such powerful, emotional performances. Their only child has created such tragedy, such mayhem, they question every choice they have made as a couple and as parents. The film progressively gets more and more heartbreaking and it eventually turns into what might be an actor’s showcase, but it doesn’t really matter. Beautiful Boy is about their relationship dynamic anyway.

During the introduction, festival director James Faust said that every year, everyone asks what is going to be the next big movie at the festival. Two years ago the Dallas International Film Festival had The Hurt Locker and last year, they had Winter’s Bone. This year he said, the movie that everyone will be talking about will be Beautiful Boy. Beautiful Boy is heart wrenching and painful to watch at times, but the journey that we go on with these characters is one that isn’t easily forgotten.

Director: Shawn Ku
Notable Cast: Maria Bello, Michael Sheen, Kyle Gallner
Writer(s): Shawn Ku, Michael Armbruster

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