Lucas Hedges and FKA Twigs sparkle in Shia LaBeouf’s deeply raw semi-autobiographical film.
They say art mimics life, and nothing could be truer of Honey Boy, a ripping off of a band-aid/cinematic therapy session for child-prodigy-turned-troubled-actor Shia LaBeouf, who wrote the film about his dysfunctional early childhood, and who exorcises his past demons in front of our very eyes.
“I’m your cheerleader, Honey Boy,” a father tells a son. Wrap your head around this: LaBeouf plays his own father, and enlists the help of astounding newcomer Noah Jupe and A24’s indie king Lucas Hedges, to play younger versions of himself (renamed in the film as Otis), at 12 and 22 respectively.
It is a wound split open. A devastating examination of why we are the way we are, PTSD, and the pain we carry with us every day.
Read our breakdown of Honey Boy below…
WHAT: Shia LaBeouf wrote Honey Boy while he was in court-ordered rehab following a series of DUIs and aggressive bust-ups with the law. It marked a disintegration of sorts from his squeaky clean Even Stevens days, into an all-consuming adult rage, which turns out, as revealed by a counsellor in the film, was a sign of his underlying PTSD. Captured by documentary film-maker Alma Har’el, the film flits seamlessly between his early childhood to his therapy sessions in later life. We see his father’s bouts of anger and violence transmuting into LaBeouf’s own bouts of anger and violence a decade on.
WHERE: Grainy, dingy and unfiltered, these are no idyllic childhood memories. But a sweeping sunrise motorbike scene here, a snake hypnotically gliding on the still water of a swimming pool there – and Har’el is clearly highlighting the beauty to be found in our disjointed memories. The action is split between film sets, junkyards, and a highway motel where young Otis lives with his dad (as does FKA Twigs, who puts in a mesmerising performance as a gauche sex worker).
STAR OF THE SHOW: Young open-faced actor Noah Jupe is absolutely remarkable as a cigarette-toting 12-year-old Otis. Lucas Hedges plays an older Otis with spiky accurate perfection, like a terse ticking time bomb. But Shia LaBeouf is an unshakable tour de force of his own personal history as his own balding father, dredging up his experience and pain, but without so much of a pointed blaming finger. A nearly impossible feat.
WHO TO WATCH IT WITH: If you’re brave then maybe with a parent. If not then with a rampant LaBeouf fan, of which, I can assure you, there are many.
STAND-OUT SCENE: A scene towards the end of the film, which takes place in the same noisy, dilapidated motel room we are claustrophobically entombed in all the way throughout, and sees a young LaBeouf facing off with his father. As their relationship reaches boiling point, they exchange words of fury, resentment and blame. Words that cannot be taken back, but are very necessary.
WATCH IF: You want to see LaBeouf and Hedges at absolute peak career highs. They play people of fault, faultlessly. And it’s gut-punching perfection.
DON’T WATCH IF: There are hard scenes to swallow for anyone who is a child of divorce, anyone who felt like they played piggy-in-the-middle, or has felt the brunt of a parent’s pain, in turn then seeping into their own pain, doubling in mass throughout life. It asks necessary questions for anyone who has used the medium of art in order to heal. Who fucked us up? Are we permanently fucked up? Is there a point of no return? But at the end of it, a quasi-redemptive arc and a kind of comforting sentiment: that we are all fucked up, we are all doing our best, and we are all in it together.