A young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health.
Shia LaBeouf has started to turn his career around somewhat in recent years after a spell where he went slightly off the rails, and ‘Honey Boy’ is the next chapter in a resume that is starting to become pretty impressive. It’s not directed by him (that honour goes to Alma Har’el), but he has written the script based on his own childhood and his own experiences growing up as a child actor and living with his father. It’s clearly a very personal film for LaBeouf and I was mightily impressed with it, and mightily impressed with LaBeouf’s performance as a character based on his own father
The film starts in 2005 when we’re introduced to Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges), a 22-year-old movie star who has problems with alcohol and anger. After crashing his car he’s sent to rehab, where his counsellor encourages him to revisit his past to help address his demons. From this point onwards we spend time with Otis in 2005 as he tries to recover, as well as going back 10 years to 1995 when Otis was 12 (played by Noah Jupe) and is starting to achieve success as a child actor. At this point in time, Otis is a talented child actor, but his lifestyle wouldn’t indicate it. He lives with his short tempered, recovering alcoholic father James (LaBeouf) in a dingy motel complex near the set where he’s currently performing, and he’s only loosely looked after. His mother and father are split up and we never find out why she’s not in the picture, although she does keep in touch on the telephone. James is not a good father and he regularly clashes with Otis, but I felt what ‘Honey Boy’ did really well was to show the complexities of their relationship. Otis is a boy who just wants a father and James wants to be a father but can’t find it in himself to truly be one. James is not an easy person to empathise with, but LaBeouf’s performance and the well written script made me start to feel for him as he tries, struggles and fails to overcome his demons. As the younger Otis, Noah Jupe is phenomenal and he has a real heartwarming presence on screen.
‘Honey Boy’ is LaBeouf’s attempt to work through his father issues and whether it was therapeutic for him or not, I thought it was excellent. A moving, touching drama with great performances, and one of the best films to tackle the father-son dynamic of recent times.
Directed By: Alma Har’el
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs, Maika Monroe, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers and Clifton Collins Jr.