I was fortunate to have seen this through Sundance's 2021 virtual film festival, and it was followed by a Q and A with the filmmakers.
I've always considered Luchino Visconti's 1971 film "Death in Venice" to be a masterpiece and I've wondered whatever happened to Bjorn Andresen after its release. Like the title of this documentary, he was often referred to as "the most beautiful boy in the world." This film illustrates yet another example of what the effects of sudden fame can do to a pre-teenager, especially one that had been objectified so specifically by his looks. He was idolized in Japan, introduced to record deals, and doted on by gay men (although he doesn't describe any sexual events or abuse, just being paraded as a "trophy."). There is a particularly disquieting clip of a conference in Cannes in which Visconti speaks to the French press and describes him solely as just a body. There's also a clip of his screen test for DIV, which I found fascinating.
What becomes clear as the film progresses is that fame was particularly lonely to Mr. Andresen because he and his sister had been abandoned by their mother, a single parent, at a very young age. He was left with a grandmother that pushed him into auditioning for the Visconti film role because she wanted him to become a star.
Unlike most documentaries, the film slowly answers questions as it unfolds. At one point we follow him into an archive where he discovers that his mother's body was found in the woods by authorities in 1966. It's not clear in the film if she had committed suicide or had been murdered (the filmmakers during the Q and A explained it was suicide), but it's an incredibly intimate and painful scene that I almost felt voyeuristic watching. We also learn that during his marriage he lost a son to SIDS, which he blames himself for because he was drinking heavily at the time and didn't feel he had the tools to be a father.
Much like "Death in Venice," there is a sad, melancholy tone that pervades throughout most of the documentary's running time. Mr. Andresen has all the signs of a man suffering from clinical depression, but the film never touches on whether or not he's ever received professional help for it. The filmmakers described during the Q and A session that they had a lot of material they left on the cutting room floor in order to keep the film at a an acceptable running time. Some of the details seemed crucial to me: there's no description of his marriage in 1983, just a few photographs. Additionally, IMDB lists close to 50 film and tv roles Mr. Andresen has been in, but the only one that's illustrated in the documentary is a scene from Ari Aster's "Midsommar."
"The Most Beautiful Boy in the World" succeeds at being a very poignant portrayal of its subject. I recommend it, but feel that some important aspects of Mr. Andresen's life were left out that would have given me a more complete picture of who he is. The filmmakers stated they purposely put the film together so the audience could read between the lines; that works for the film in some ways but works against it in others.