'Beautiful Boy' review: Somber, splendidly acted evidence that some behavior simply cannot be understood

*** (out of four)

"There’s more." That's what a cop tells Kate (Maria Bello) and Bill (Michael Sheen) after informing them that their son, Sammy (Kyle Gallner), was killed during a college campus shooting spree in which nearly 20 people died. In fact, Sammy was the shooter, which leaves his parents unsure of how to pass the seconds, but very sure their planned separation can go on the back-burner.

The buzz: Kate's brother and nephew are named Eric and Dylan, a nod to Columbine High School massacre perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold reminding "Beautiful Boy" viewers that unthinkable events like this really happen. An unusual onscreen trend is developing in 2011: At this year's Cannes Film Festival Tilda Swinton received raves for playing a mom coping with her son’s horrible crimes in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

The verdict: This gripping adult drama has one card to play—tragedies committed by children can result in nagging questions without answers, with no end in sight for those mourning—and it plays it well. Sheen and Bello are fantastic as usual; their faces search for clues about how to move forward while eventually the spouses furiously blame each other as a way of deflecting their own guilt. "Beautiful Boy" only scratches the surface of the notion that teen depression is easy to chalk up as par for the course—which, of course, isn’t an easy subject to unravel when the line between unhappy and dangerous may be thin for some. Like "Rabbit Hole," "Beautiful Boy" powerfully inhabits the grieving process following a devastating incident that no one can understand until they go through it. Hopefully, we'll all be lucky enough not to.

Did you know? In a rare moment of emotional release, Kate and Bill recognize that Funyuns are both fun and onions. As if a commercial product would ever deceive us?

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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