2018, and the past few years before it, have brought about a heightened state of cultural awareness in practically all areas of life, from how we treat each other in everyday interaction to how we choose to talk about sensitive and important subject-matter in the art we create. The depiction of substance use disorder in film is a prime example of this evolution. In 2018, there were several movies about addiction that stripped away the stigma while refusing to sugar-coat the disease. These films strike a healthy and honest balance between the urgency, love and compassion that families need to help their loved one get help, and the sardonic “gallows humor” many in recovery use as a coping mechanism after they complete treatment. Below are some of RU’s top picks for this year’s movies about addiction and recovery.
While many movies about addiction recovery tend to focus on heroin addiction, this is 0ne of the few movies about addiction to focus on meth. Beautiful Boy follows the addiction-related decline of a promising, smart and academically gifted teenager (Timothée Chalamet), as well as the lengths to which his grief-stricken father (Steve Carrell) will go to wrestle his son from the stranglehold of the drug. The film takes an honest look at the pitfalls, uncertainty and desperation that families dealing with addiction face and is based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff.
Ben Is Back
A painfully resonant piece for every family dealing with addiction during the holidays, Ben Is Back is a movie that tells the story of a teenager who has left his sober-living facility to rejoin his family on Christmas. What follows is a whirlwind journey that showcases the devastation and deception of relapse, the bargains we make with our addicted loved ones when we think we’re keeping them safe and more. The film depicts with excruciating accuracy the painful and undignified places to which addiction takes sufferers and the power of a determined parent to affect change, even when their optimism seems futile. Few movies about drug capture the struggle of this piece.
A must-see for anyone who has ever tried to help their addicted loved one find treatment, Six Balloons follows a night in the life of a sister who is traveling across Los Angeles with her heroin-addicted brother looking for a detox center. The film puts, front and center, the consequences of enabling and the reality that even the most well-intentioned people can be guilty of it because they don’t want to see their loved one suffer through withdrawal.
The Future of Movies about Addiction
From these 2018 addiction movies, it’s clear that the messaging in movies about addiction, and the type of people it affects, has gotten more and sophisticated. The depiction of addiction as a moral failing has been replaced with a demonization of the disease rather than the people it affects. This messaging is crucial to gradually reversing the course of everyday perception and, in however peripheral a capacity, can directly inform the way SUD sufferers are treated when they look for treatment. If art and media is, indeed, a mirror reflection of our collective social values, there’s reason to be hopeful. These are some of the best movies about addiction and the most honest films to be made on the subject. Go see them.