First Hit: A very personal film about a parent’s deeply felt and dark journey through his son’s addiction.
Despite excellent acting, especially on Timothee Chalamet’s part as the son Nic, this isn’t a joyful film. For anyone who has experienced addiction or has been a parent of an addicted child, it is not an easy film to watch. Its title comes from a John Lennon song about his son Sean.
The story is from the perspective of David Sheff (Steve Carell), Nic’s dad. The film jumps time confusingly but it is clear when we are watching their relationship grow and Nic is a child. David is married to Karen (Maura Tierney) but she’s not Nic’s mother. David divorced his first wife Vicki (Amy Ryan) who ended up moving to Los Angeles. There are telephone conversations between Vicki and David that are realistic in that each parent is blaming the other for not doing enough for their son’s struggle.
Confusingly we dance forward and backward in time through instances of Nic’s addiction behaviors and fiascos. I’m not sure why it was done this way, but when I have to figure out what point in time the scene is referring to, I’m not engaged and dislike having to piece the story together. I get turned off.
However, on the up side of the film, Chalamet does a great job of being an addict. His arguments and persuading his family and others to do what he wants, including giving him money, is spot-on.
There are numerous scenes that expose everyone’s engagement and caring for Nic and this is commendable.
Carell is strong as the father that will do anything to help his son. When he learns to let go, I breathed a sigh of relief because, to survive he had to let go. Chalamet was excellent. His scenes of sliding back into wanting to use again were perfect. Ryan was fantastic as the mother who cared, yet knew nothing about what to do, or how to do it. Tierney was sublime. She showed empathy towards David, cared about Nic, and loved her children. The scene when she follows Nic and his girlfriend after robbing her home, was wonderfully developed and executed. Luke Davies and Felix Van Groeninger wrote a good, if at times, confusing script. Groeninger’s direction needed to be better given the times shifts that caused confusion.
Overall: Deeply personal film that will not be everyone’s cup of tea.