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Published:June 2nd, 2011 23:53 EST
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Beautiful Boy Stars Michael Sheen and Maria Bello In a Tragic Tale of Love

By Paulette Cohn

Most movies that tell the story of a Virginia Tech-type school massacre do so from the perspective of the victims. Not so the Beautiful Boy. It searches for answers to a shocking act of violence, along with the parents of the teen boy who is responsible for the tragedy, even as it is their love story.

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Bill (Michael Sheen) and Kate (Maria Bello) are already on the verge of separation when the inexplicable happens and they learn that their beautiful son Sammy (Kyle Gallner) was not the victim of the shooting as his college, but rather the perpetrator. Hounded by the press, the couple flees their home and really only have each other to turn to turn to for comfort -- but they also look to each other for answers to a question impossible to solve.

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"To be able to wrap your head around that sort of tragedy and what a parent must feel, you could never get over that," says Bello, herself the mother to a 10-year-old son.

In Beautiful Boy, Bill and Kate deal with their feelings of guilt, rage and blame as they try to work toward a resolution of the tragedy, as well as their failing marriage. Writer/director Shawn Ku says he based their relationship on the one he knew best: his parents.

"My parents` relationship has always been less than ideal," he says. "And it has undeniably affected who I am, just as our lead characters` relationship has profoundly impacted their son. But I do not blame my parents for the bad choices I have made in my life. Nor do I think that Bill and Kate are to blame for what Sam did. They are doing the best that they can to raise and love their son, but their own issues get in the way."

Surprisingly, the tone on the set of such a dark drama was light. Bello explains, "Sometimes the more dramatic a movie is, the more fun you have. I don`t know if that is about being in a great creative process and being able to work on a great script with great people so there is an excitement, or if because the material is so dark, you have to be able to laugh."

And Sheen agrees. He says when it came time to film, he had a "sense of joy." He says that the most difficult part of his participation in Beautiful Boy was not the filming of the movie, but "the section that came after reading the script when we got together to talk about what their life had been like. Obviously, the way you connect with that is by talking about your own life. That is the hard bit."

The "why" of the crime is never solved. And it shouldn`t be. What leads this teen gunman to commit such a heinous act of violence has no simple answer. But the film is raw, intense and thoughtful and, while hard to watch, definitely worth seeing.

Beautiful Boy opens in theaters on Friday, June 3. Directed by Ku from a script he wrote with Michael Ambruster, Beautiful Boy also stars Alan Tudyk, Moon Bloodgood, Austin Nichols and Meat Loaf.