The opioid crisis was a ripe dramatic theme this year. In Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy, David Sheff (Steve Carrell) deals with his son Nic’s (Timothee Chalafant) inexplicable addiction to meth, bouncing off the walls like a pinball trying to help. Along the way, the father and son share a joint and later, desperate to understand Nic’s dependence, David snorts a line. There’s plenty of drug porn (skin-popping needles and ODs) in this compelling redemption story.
Ben Is Back
Not to be outdone, Peter Hedges’ Ben Is Back digs a little deeper into the subject of teen drug addiction. Fresh out of rehab for heroin and opioid use, Ben (Lucas Hedges, son of the director) comes home for Christmas, and it’s nothing but trouble. In this case, the mom (Julia Roberts) carries the burden. The Oscar winner is up to the task, attaching herself to Ben to little avail.
White Boy Rick
Another father-son saga, Yann Demange’s White Boy Rick stars newcomer Richie Merritt as the titular teenage crack dealer and a game Matthew McConaughey as his gun runner dad. As Rick fits in with a rough Detroit crowd, he’s noticed by DEA agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) who play him and his father like fiddles. Merritt gives it a valiant try, but the demanding role is over his head.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
If you’d prefer some levity about substance abuse, there’s Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Joaquin Phoenix stars as hapless alcoholic John Callahan who’s bound to a wheelchair due to a car accident. He speeds along in his scooter, often attending AA meetings conducted by the lovable but sleazy Donny, as portrayed by the always entertaining Jonah Hill. Van Sant fans should get the jokes and enjoy this offbeat film.