There have been many films made about grieving parents, even just in the last year, and none of them are particularly fun or enjoyable to watch. In most cases they simply seem to be showcasing the acting ability of the stars playing the parents. Beautiful Boy is no exception in many ways, a simple film with an additional twist to the grief which only makes the film more difficult to endure. At the same time, the performances are indeed exceptional, and in some ways Beautiful Boy works better as a romance than a drama.
Bill (Michael Sheen) and Kate (Maria Bello) have stayed in an unhappy marriage together for their son, and once he is away at college Bill is eager to find his own place. He already sleeps in a separate bedroom from his wife, and they seem to have little to talk about until tragedy strikes their family. Their son is involved in a Columbine-like massacre on campus, leaving his parents grieving as well as asking themselves if they are responsible for his actions.
The grief of this disjointed couple goes through waves and changes. There are the expected stages of grief, such as denial and acceptance, but along the way Bill and Kate also find distraction in each other. In order to avoid the harassment of the press, they hole up in a motel room with the comforting escapism of sex and alcohol to numb their wounds. They each also have their individual difficulties, many having to do with the fact that a certain amount of celebrity is given to their son along with his infamy.