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Beautiful Boy: Film Review

The Bottom Line

Despite the  bouts of finger-pointing and self-blame, the faint suggestion remains that the tragedy still could end up bringing them closer together.

Venue:

Toronto International Film Festival (Anchor Bay)

Director:

Shawn Ku

Cast:

Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Kyle Gallner

A spare, unflinching examination of a married couple coping with the tragic death of their 18-year-old son, "Beautiful Boy," which won a FIPRESCI prize at Toronto, is graced by a pair of equally raw, affecting turns by Michael Sheen and Maria Bello.

TORONTO - A spare, unflinching examination of a married couple coping with the tragic death of their 18-year-old son, Beautiful Boy, which won a FIPRESCI prize at Toronto, is graced by a pair of equally raw, affecting turns by Michael Sheen and Maria Bello.

Sharing the theme of loss and healing with another film having its Toronto premiere -- namely Rabbit Hole, boasting similarly stripped-down performances by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart -- this first feature by Shawn Ku cuts even closer to the bone.

With its hard-hitting subject matter and extensive handheld camerawork, the film could be a tough sell for Anchor Bay Entertainment, which picked up the picture near the beginning of the festival.

When their son, Sam (Kyle Gallner), fails to contact them following a mass shooting on his university campus, Kate (Bello) and Bill (Sheen) fear the worst.

But the outcome proves even more horrible than they imagined: Not only is Sam dead, but he also was the shooter.

Their grief-stricken search for answers and telltale clues, further complicated by the constant media scrutiny surrounding them, takes its toll on their already-crumbling relationship.

Despite the inevitable bouts of finger-pointing and self-blame, the faint suggestion remains that the tragedy still could end up bringing them closer together.

Directing from the nonjudgmental script he wrote with Michael Armbruster, Ku's assured, unadorned documentary style allows his leads ample breathing room to inhabit their devastated characters, and Bello and Sheen take him up on the offer by delivering a pair of exposed, painfully honest performances.

Although they're onscreen for nearly the entire movie, Ku has assembled an interesting supporting cast, including Gallner, who's briefly but memorably shown as their troubled son; Alan Tudyk and Moon Bloodgood as Bello's brother and sister-in-law; and Meat Loaf Aday as a sympathetic hotel desk clerk.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Anchor Bay)
Production: Lightning Entertainment, Goldrush Entertainment, First Point Entertainment, Braeburn Entertainment
Cast: Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Kyle Gallner, Alan Tudyk, Moon Bloodgood, Meat Loaf Aday
Director: Shawn Ku
Screenwriters: Michael Armbruster, Shawn Ku
Executive producers: Mark Moran, Richard Gabai, Richard Lott
Producers: Lee Clay, Eric Gozlan
Director of photography: Michael Fimognari
Production designer: Gabor Norman
Music: Trevor Morris
Costume designer: Cynthia Ann Summers
Editor: Chad Galster
No rating, 100 minutes.