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‘Beautiful Boy': Raise a Glass for the Columbine Killers’ Parents

What happens next to a couple whose son walks into his university armed with weapons and begins shooting students, finally killing himself

Though it was not broadcast or discussed when the event happened, loved ones wept for the Columbine killers. LIke their victims, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were young people with families who loved them, who would miss them and spend the rest of their lives wondering what signs they missed, what they might have acted upon and did not.

The powerful “Beautiful Boy” follows the lives of a couple who are having marital troubles even before their son walks into his university armed with weapons and begins shooting students, finally killing himself. When they see the events on the news, their first thought — as anyone's would be — is for the safety of their child. Is he among the dead or wounded? Is he safe? Why can we not reach him?

When the police arrive and inform them that their son was the shooter and is dead, the mother attacks the policeman and shrieks at him with primal rage. She just cannot make the connection that her child has committed such an atrocity. And then it really begins: Their lives are placed under a microscope with no refuge from the prying eyes of the public and media. They become targets of hatred, and despite their marriage woes find the only solace they have is with one another, connected forever by the love they had for their son.

We watch helplessly as this couple, torn apart with grief and anger and a lack of understanding, try to come to terms with what their boy has done, and how they failed to see it coming.

Maria Bello, so good in “A History of Violence,” is superb as the mother, devastated not just by her son’s actions but by her loss. It is a performance full of anguish, of raw emotions and nerves — and a mounting rage. Indeed, as the story plays out, we see her rage building, flashes of it first peeking out from under the pain. But who is she angry at? As it turns out, she’s angry at herself — where did she fail?

Michael Sheen, taking a break from yet another performance as former Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair, matches her step for step throughout the film, though he goes in a very different direction. He is appalled by what his son has done, not able to connect the dots from the child he loved to the angry teenager who walked into a school and committed cold-blooded murder. He cannot see his son in that killer. He rages that his wife feels bad, when she should be angry at the acts of violence their boys committed.

Together they must deal with the shattered life he has handed to them, and through the love they once felt, begin to put the pieces back together … if that is even possible.

This is troubling stuff, but superbly executed throughout. The performances hit all the right notes, and the direction is taut and perfect, displaying a maturity in Shawn Ku far beyond his years as a filmmaker. He never backs down from the tough questions or difficult emotions.

This one demands to be seen.