After experiencing Honey Boy at the Chicago International Film Festival, I now have full respect for Shia LaBeouf. In this film, he truly redeems himself in a story based on his own life at a young age. LaBeouf also wrote the movie and plays his own father, a challenging role. This is also a big directorial debut for director Alma Har’el. Honey Boy is deep with emotions, spellbinding, and powerful from the beginning to the end. Honey Boy also helps viewers realize why Shia has had some rough years, based on the film’s representation of the actor’s struggles both at a young age and as he has grown older.
Honey Boy gears on the life of a boy named Otis who is a young child actor. The film starts with Otis at age 22 (played by Lucas Hedges) and goes back to Otis at age 12 (played by Noah Jupe). Immediately, viewers see the life of an actor that is making the big bucks with the movies, but also getting himself into tons of trouble with the law due to drug abuse-related conflicts that he struggles to stop. Then the film transitions to his younger days and his life being a popular child actor with lots going for him but has an abusive father. James Lort (played by Shia LaBeouf) is jealous, cruel, outspoken, and testy. He has a bad record, cannot get a job, and his source of income is based on Otis’ fame. He is abusive towards his son because he feels his fame can give him a better life without having to do anything. He is also envious because his son has fame and he does not. This is a serious issue LaBeouf suffered throughout his childhood and that is why I believe he plays the role of his own father so realistically.
The movie transitions multiple times between young and old Otis. The older Otis is in treatment for his drug addiction and is in denial about what is going through his mind. The counselors challenge him to be open and honest about why his mindset is not in a good place. Hedges is deep and thorough with making his emotions speak to his viewers. When the movie transitions to young Otis, it is the time period when Otis is getting famous. Every time he comes home, his father has nasty words to say and turns all the little conversations into opportunities to put Otis down. Eventually Otis’ tension starts to come around and more damage is done. There are moments when Otis’ father asks for another chance and even tells him he promises there will be a change, but it is always the opposite, it’s a lie. I love how the film’s representation demonstrates the reason why Otis struggles as he grows up. Clearly, it is because he never had the true support parents should give their kids for their individual talents that can get them far in life.
After looking back at the many outbursts and controversial scenarios LaBeouf has had throughout the years, it makes more sense now. He did not have a supporting father, so once he became an adult, he went his own way. Although he was always very talented, he struggled to show his emotions. However, now LaBeouf appears to be a changed man. I have seen it with The Peanut Butter Falcon this year and I see it again in Honey Boy in which LaBeouf is able to display his many talents. I believe now that he played his own father, he is starting to realize how he can overcome his challenges through his art of acting. Honey Boy soars with moments of despair turning into hope. I loved this movie and I felt quite emotional at moments. In the end, it lets viewers who are artistic and/or support the arts feel they are not alone. Four stars for Honey Boy.