If a character is a drunk and an occasional drug addict, it takes a lot more than being the narrator or the protagonist to gain the viewer’s sympathy. In their film “Beautiful Kid,” directors Michael Carty and Colum McCann do not immediately offer any reason as to why you should to like Sean Lennihan (Dan Brennan) aside from his being kind of cute. Like his childhood buddies Chris “Rock” Kelly (Javier Pire) and Bridget O’Brien (Christine Meyers), Sean grew up in a household headed by an alcoholic. Having spent most of their formative years in the local bar, Rock, Bridget, and Sean develop a bond with beer.
The film’s story focuses on Sean and his attempts to make a good life for himself and to keep his younger sister Linda (Haley Wegryn Gross) from turning out like him. The struggle to attain a better life is the overall goal, but Sean spends most of the film hanging out with his friends, getting pissed off at his younger brother Danny (John “The Terror” Carty), and yelling at his drunken father (Frank McCourt, the author of ‘Angela’s Ashes’). You’re still waiting to see something from Sean—a reason to invest fully in his well-being. The directors depict him as a basically decent guy. He’s not a thug and definitely more likable than his brother Danny. Sean’s a “nice” enough guy, and when his car goes missing, you really hope that he gets it back, but there’s little substance. Luckily, the directors finally give you something more.
The most redeeming qualities Sean exhibits surface in a particular scene when he takes his little sister out to lunch. They’re sitting at a table next to a window and the camera shoots them from outside. You don’t hear heir conversation, but it doesn’t matter. Their body language and facial expressions efficiently communicate their thoughts and emotions. The relationship between Sean and his sister Linda is one of the more engaging and certainly more important of the plot threads. Only when you see him interact with her do you think that he’s worthy of your support. The film is ultimately about breaking out of an unhealthy lifestyle, but “Beautiful Kid” doesn’t direct its narrative attention to the right place. Instead, the film goes on to the other people in Sean’s life and you end up caring less and less about him.