[For those of you in Canada, Shawn Ku’s film is getting a limited theatrical release, and here is my previously written review (slightly copy-edited) from TIFF]
There are enough school shooting films out there at the moment that they are threatening to become a sub-genre unto themselves. Elephant, Bowling For Columbine and Polytechnique have all won major awards and even Uwe Boll has even made a film on the subject, so there is your filmmaker spectrum rather covered. Enter freshman filmmaker Shawn Ku who gives us a different perspective on the genre with Beautiful Boy. It is a solid first film, but rather torn on two fronts: On one hand it struggles to transcend clichés as a hand-held realistic and grounded drama, and on the other it wants to throw plates, obsessively scrub gravestones and have its principle characters do enough body-shaking crying so as to rival a belly-dancers funeral. There is a good film struggling to get out past a few bad writing choices, screenplay feels just a tad overwritten. Bolstered significantly by top shelf performances from its leads, Maria Bello and Michael Sheen (with a solid American accent), the two play the grieving parents, Bill and Kate, of freshmen college student Sam. Sam is killed in a columbine style school shooting and Kate immediately knows her son is the victim when the cops come knocking at the door. But both parents are flabbergasted when they discover that it was their son who shot all of his classmates before turning the gun on himself.