Starring: Maria Bello, Michael Sheen, Kyle Gallner
Imagine your worst nightmare. Now, Imagine your worst nightmare come true, and then imagine that that the reality of your worst nightmare is worse than you could ever possibly imagine. Independent film maker Shawn Ku examines those very feelings in Beautiful Boy. The film is about a college student named Sammy (Gallner) who goes on a shooting rampage at his school, killing seventeen people before committing suicide. To the viewer, it becomes pretty apparent that things were not right to begin with in this family. Sammy's parents, Bill and Kate (Bello and Sheen) are emotionally distant from each other, appearing to be on the brink of divorce even before the tragedy. Warning signs from Sammy are pretty obvious with his odd behavior from the get-go. The violent act happens at the very beginning of the film, then shifts the narrative to how Bill and Kate cope with the aftermath of not only losing their child, but also having to deal with the fact that he was the culprit in a epically tragic event.
Most of us can remember the events at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20th, 1999. In the aftermath of that horrible event, we learned about the disturbed mind-set of the two killers, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. We learned about how the massacre affected the victims, their victim's survivors, and the community. In Beautiful Boy, we learn how a massacre similar to the one at Columbine affects the survivors of the one who did the actual killing. Think about it; how do you think the parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris felt knowing that their son(s) were responsible for taking human lives, and reigning terror upon their community? Think about how the parents of Seung-Hui Cho felt after he killed 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007.
How this film ever slipped through the cracks is beyond me. This beautifully acted film is filled with raw, and real emotions. The actual event of the killings is a very small part of the film. The main focus of the plot is how Bill and Kate grapple with feeling that they created a monster, which only further drives the couple apart. Finger-pointing, guilt, shame, and anger are just a few ways to describe the actions, and what the two protagonists are feeling while coping with the tragedy. The question is: will the tragedy tear them further apart, or bring them back together?
While the main theme of the plot of this film is grief, it's actually a story of hope. Taking a look into how an tragic event like a mass murder/suicide affects the survivors of the assailant makes us understand that people like Bill and Kate are real; they are normal people who have found themselves torn between anger for what their loved one (in this case, their son) has done, and grief for their loss.