When at its best, film brings the viewer on a voyage. A voyage of the human condition. Good films are personal, relatable and bring about emotions of all different kinds. A good film is an intimate experience between the filmmaker and the viewer. Such is the case with Honey Boy.
Child stars have been given a rough ride by the media, comedians and the population in general. Warranted or not. It is not a normal existence. At such a young age to have to grow up so quickly. To have access to a lot of money and rarely hearing the word “no”. The result has been played out for all to see. Many have had addiction or behaviour issues. Think of Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Drew Barrymore, Justin Bieber, and Shia LaBeouf. LaBeouf has had a tough time of it of late. Over the last couple of years his behaviour has become more and more bizarre. It all finally ended in an arrest while filming The Peanut Butter Falcon.
While undergoing some mandated rehab the 33-year-old not only got clean, but decided to exercise some of his demons by scripting a film. A film which is autobiographical. A film about him and his father. It is at times heartfelt while others heartbreaking. All in in all, it is a wonderful watch.
Young adult and actor Otis (Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea, Lady Bird) has been put in court appointed rehab after getting into a car accident while intoxicated. His therapist Dr. Moreno (Laura San Giacomo – Pretty Woman, Sex, Lies and Videotapes) makes him go over his life and especially his relationship with his father. This brings about some flashbacks.
At the age of 12 Otis (Noah Jupe – A Quiet Place, Suburbicon) has already lived quite a life. His parents are divorced and he is living with his father James (Shia LaBeouf – Fury, Transformers) and working as an actor. That does not seem too bad, but it sounds more glamourous than it actually is.
In reality it is far from that. Otis and his father live in a run down motel. His father is an alcoholic, ex-rodeo clown and ex-felon, who only earns money because his young son pays him to be his “manager”. The only positive male role model that Otis has in his life is his Big Brother Tom (Clifton Collins Jr. – Capote, Traffic), who James runs off out of jealousy. The only “friend” Otis has is the shy young woman (FKA Twigs – first film), who lives in the same motel.
Art imitating life. Or LaBeouf allowing his life to seep into his work. If even a third of his depiction of his early life and dysfunctional relationship with his father is the truth then you can really understand why he is a little messed up. His father was truly psychologically, emotionally and physically abusive. No wonder LaBeouf would have turned to drugs and drink.
All the actors – young and not so young – turn in strong performances. Especially Noah Jupe and LaBeouf. Your heart breaks for young Otis. The youngster did not have it easy nor does Jupe. It is a complex role for a young man and he does it justice. Plenty is asked of him and he gives it back in spades. LaBeouf plays his own father and one of the more unlikable characters I have seen in a film in a long time.
Connection and communication is what this film is about. The man behind it is reaching out attempting to bring us into his life. He wants to be understood. Exposing all. Becoming vulnerable is the way he is trying to accomplish this. Communicating his reality. Coping via communication. It is heartwrenching, but beautiful at the same time.
Hopefully making this film and sharing his story with the world will help Shia LaBeouf. Will exorcise the demons he has fought most of his life. The truth will set you free, they say, and I hope that is the case for LaBeouf.