When a school shooting occurs, it is obviously devastating -- and the media, rightly so, focuses on the victims and their families. But what about the people the shooter left behind? Since the shooter usually kills him (or her) self along with the other victims, the family is usually left to take the brunt of the criticism and blame... or you don't hear from them at all.
This intensely sad and emotional film looks at the "other" -- as in the family the shooter left behind. Although not always the case, Beautiful Boy presents a loving family trying to come to terms with their son's actions and also examining where they went wrong in their parenting of this boy.
Bill (Michael Sheen) and Kate (Maria Bello) are loving parents who are already dealing with a strained marriage when they find out their son is the gunman in a tragic University shooting. They must come to terms with what their son did and examine their own relationship in order to get through the confusion and grief they are feeling. It is more an examination of the parent's who are left behind, rather than a look at why a person would choose to commit such a horrific act.
The only criticism is that there is not enough anger or responsibility for what their child did. The circumstances leading up to the shooting don't seem to fit with the crime. Sammy (the shooter) was a little quiet, but no other real signs of aggression or anger, according to the parents. Either they really don't know their kid or they are in serious denial. You leave the film still wondering and with such a heavy subject matter that should have been explained more thoroughly as part of the parent's grieving process.
Sheen and Bello produce a gripping performance that really captures the struggles of parents dealing with a death and a intense disappointment at the same time. They don't break down every five minutes, but display an utter despair through their numbness.
So, are the parents to blame for this terrible choice their son made? The film suggests they are not, but they are responsible for how they deal with their grief and pain afterward and that is what Beautiful Boy so eloquently explores.