It is difficult to truly talk about this film in that it is one of the most deeply personal and vulnerable films I have ever seen. It is also difficult to see this as anything other than a powerful and impactful masterpiece. Plainly put, this film is truth, it is pain, and it is raw emotion.
The film’s director, Alma Har’el, is the guiding figure throughout this. She moves this film from scene to scene with beauty and precision. Her direction paired with Shia LaBeouf’s (masterful) writing forms Honey Boy into the disturbing yet beautiful story of family, trauma, and connection. Shia LaBeouf took his past and formed it into a piece of art that he himself stated—on stage after the screening as he and others from the cast/crew wiped away tears—that he made for two people: himself and his father.
Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) plays young Otis, who is searching for love and acceptance in an environment where he feels that he gets neither. His relationship with his father, James Lort (Shia Labeouf) continues to spiral as a result of the self-destructive tendencies his father exhibits through his struggles of addiction.
We also see a struggling older version of Otis (magnificently portrayed by Lucas Hedges), trying to come to terms with the trauma he faced as a child, living with his father in a rehab facility after yet another drunken altercation with police. Older Otis’ story begins with a rapidly edited and out of control montage of his current acting career, until it fully spins out of control with his arrest.
Although Lucas Hedges was the perfect pick for an older Otis, the real star of the two is Noah Jupe—he showcases such an expansive talent for playing every emotion on the spectrum, from pure hatred to basking in the small moments of love and comfort in his relationship with his father. Perfectly paired scenes of Jupe and Hedges are edited together to provide a well-rounded understanding of the nature of the father-son relationship and how it ended up the way that it did.
LaBeouf is an actor who I have long admired as one of the best actors of our time and he has found one of—if not THE best performance of his career in playing James Lort. From the very second he appears on screen, he draws you in and never lets you go until the last word of the credits fades away. You will never once feel removed from the world of this movie as you watch, and you will only remember you are sitting in a theater when you realize you’ve been crying for the past five minutes.
The complexities of a relationship between an alcohol & drug-abusing father and his son are earnestly portrayed in such a way that it really covers every angle and every difficult and conflicting emotion that plagues these difficult relationships. No stone is left unturned.
The term ‘visceral’ has been thrown around a lot in discussions of this film, but there really is no better term to describe Honey Boy. Every detail is deliberate and detailed, and so much care clearly went into crafting each and every frame of the entire film. You can feel the healing nature of writing this story for LaBeouf as the run-time goes on, and it makes it all the more beautiful.
Whether it be sadness, pain or anger, Honey Boy will without a doubt make you feel.
Honey Boy will be released through Amazon Studios in the US on November 8, 2019.