Based off of the true story of Jim Carroll, we get to watch a talented young boy spiral into madness with the help of heroin and pills he can't even name. It's one of Leonardo's best performances and one of the mot realistic portrayals of drug addiction out there.
Jim is a poet, a great basketball player, and an even better friend until somehow or another he's shooting up heroin, beating up old women, breaking into stores, getting kicked out of his house, accidentally killing a few people, relapsing more than once, and seeing his friends get taken to jail one by one.
Jim - Jim is seriously the golden boy. He carries around a journal where he writes about everything under the sun and is a genuinely good-hearted kid.
Bobby - Jim's best friend who is diagnosed with leukemia. His illness oddly enough isn't a real factor in the start of Jim's drug abuse (which is actually important, Jim didn't do it because he was grieving, he was just a bored boy)
Reggie - Reg is an older man who lives near Jim and plays basketball with him in the park. He's basically Jim's only voice of reason outside of his house and can be seen as the father figure of the story.
The Mom - She's tough as nails. She's able to do exactly what is right for Jim even if it goes against every instinct a mother has. She doesn't appear a lot but she's an incredible character.
The Teachers - What serious pieces of shit. We've got an abusive priest who likes to hit his students and a pedophile basketball coach with anger issues.
The reason this movie is so powerful is because this isn't some kid from a broken home who didn't have a support system or love in his life to distract him from drugs. He wasn't wealthy, but he was doing alright. He was set to play college basketball, had plans to write a novel, and he just wanted to be your average boy from Harlem.
I thought that they were going to try to blame his drug experimentation on his grief over his best friend dying, but it was just him being a boy growing up with other boys and being bored.
He tried inhalants which was a slippery slope into injecting. The addiction just sort of...happened.