A father's anguished struggle to save his son from a deadly drug dependence in "Beautiful Boy" stirred Oscar buzz for stars Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet at its Toronto film festival premiere over the weekend.
Based on the bestselling memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, Felix van Groeningen's movie delves into the life of a young drug addict and his well-to-do California family coping with his relapses and recovery over several years.
"I felt the closeness to the people, how David and Nic... talk openly about their love for life, their closeness as a family and then the harrowing story that they go through," said the Belgian director, who was showing his first English-language release.
Chalamet is fresh from his breakout role in last year's "Call Me By Your Name," which earned him an Academy Award nomination, while comedic star Carell builds on his powerful dramatic turns in "Foxcatcher" and "The Big Short."
"Sort of the same way you would prepare for a comedy, you do your research, find out as much as you can about a character or a real life person and when you get there you try to make it feel real," Carell said on the red carpet in Toronto on Friday.
Pressed about switching from comedy to drama, he added: "It wasn't by choice, it just sort of happened in a way.
"The types of roles I was being offered and the things that seemed interesting to me are the ones that I took. And they were more dramatic in nature," he said.
In the film, David is dumbfounded to learn of his son's addiction to methamphetamine and other drugs, believing he had done everything to set him on the right course in life.
As he grapples with Nic's lies, betrayals, and constant flirtations with death, audiences are reminded that Nic used to be a sweet, thoughtful, beautiful boy.
It's a familiar story. Countless families in the United Sates are currently struggling with the scourge of opioid abuse -- including painkillers like OxyContin and street drugs like heroin -- which took more than 42,000 lives in 2016.
In Canada, an opioid crisis claimed nearly 4,000 lives last year, mainly from overdoses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl.
"As much as it's about addiction I think it is more about recovery and family love and sticking together through it all to survive, and so I hope people come away with that message as well," commented Amy Ryan, who plays Nic's mother.