Honey Boy is a tragic self-reflection from writer Shia LaBeouf that's constantly scratching at truth and wholesome sincerity in ways that will surely move you. Honey Boy is one of the most beautifully haunting films of 2019.
Alma Har’el‘s Honey Boy is a self-reflective tale of pain, love and acceptance, written by and based on Shia LaBeouf‘s life as a child actor, starring LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe and FKA Twigs.
Otis (Noah Jupe – 12, Lucas Hedges – 22), is a young and rising child star, accompanied by his disoriented and downright bizarre father James (Shia LaBeouf) as the two navigate through life’s fragile opportunities in attempt to make connections with those that they love the most.
Otis’ life is far from normal as he struggles with the everyday relationships that are apart of being a kid, only with the added complexity of a loose canon father that’s a former alcoholic with his own crop of demons that he does battle with on the daily.
Otis just wants a “normal” father that is loving, caring and understanding, whereas James continues to push his child in hopes of him being able to achieve everything that he never had. James does this while facing his own failures as a man and the reality that his kid is essentially his meal ticket, because of the mistakes that he’s made and the people that he has shut out.
Honey Boy is doubly interesting as it intersects with pain and love simultaneously, which creates for a messy, but authentic tragedy. Both Otis and James suffer from neglect and disappointment, constantly letting down their loved ones (each other) as they try to navigate through life in hopes that it will get easier or at least more clear at some point in time.
Young Otis feels alone and yearns for a father figure, while older Otis struggles coping with daily life because of the years of abuse and mistreatment.
Meanwhile, James wrestles with accepting the facts of life and his control over his decisions that haven’t been made, while accepting the ones that he has already made as the past.
What makes Honey Boy so unique is how it plays off of the fact that both Otis and James desperately long for the love and affection of the other person, yet they also create the largest amount of resentment and discomfort for each other.
If Otis wasn’t so successful, then perhaps he would rely on James to provide for him and show him the path towards growing into his own man. If James wasn’t such a broken and insecure mess, then perhaps he would let Otis in and treat him like an actual son.
Director Alma Har’el and writer Shia LaBeouf capture such heart-breaking tragedy and familiar truth in Honey Boy unlike most films. LaBeouf wrote the film based on his own real-life experiences, which only adds to that statement and makes Honey Boy feel that much more lived in and relatable.
Sometimes, the power of cinema isn’t about escaping our own reality and exploring a newfound world, but instead reflecting and revisiting certain moments or times from our own lives that helped define us as individuals and grow us into the adults that we are today.
Honey Boy is that direct link to the soul that stirs up those old memories and breaks down the wall that is the screen that you are watching it on. It’s quite a powerful film that punches at your emotions in ways that will feel true.
Actors Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe play Otis in ways that are hard not to compare to a young Shia, with the world ahead of him and nothing but talent and energy. Jupe especially looks like a younger Shia, whereas Hedges captures that later life “craziness” that most associate Shia with just right after he grabbed everyone’s attention with a string of successful blockbusters.
Shia’s portrayal of James is agonizing, yet astounding as he exposes the character’s rawest moments. James is the furthest from a perfect person, full of mistakes that are entirely his own fault, yet you can’t stop feeling for him and wanting for him to learn his lesson and grow into someone else. LaBeouf’s ability to capture those emotions and turn in such a thoughtful and fully-realized performance is just another example of why he is one of the best working actors of our generation.
Honey Boy is his second solid film of 2019 (the first being The Peanut Butter Falcon).
The conclusion to Honey Boy will surely bring some to tears and others to a feeling of relief as LaBeouf and Har’el meditate on acceptance and to some extent, forgiveness.
Honey Boy is a cathartic experience, cleansing its cinematic soul of the evil and wrong-doing with its fragile, but pure characters. Director Alma Har’el has knocked this one out of the park, with the help of Shia LaBeouf‘s deeply personal, yet beyond engaging and relatable story.