Amazon has always had a handle on critically successful movies, and Honey Boy is no exception. Directed by Alma Har’el and written by Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy tells the story of a movie star struggling with alcoholism and how it is linked to his past with his father.
Honey Boy was originally written as a form of rehab while LeBeouf was in therapy and is partially based on his own life. The movie jumps back and forth between the “present” with Lucas Hedges portraying Otis Lort and the past with Noah Jupe, portraying his younger self. While struggling through rehab, Otis is reminded of his dark past with his father, James, portrayed by LeBeouf.
Alma Har’el made her directorial debut with Honey Boy, and her direction, while not visually obvious, makes the movie. The camera movement is always tight, focusing on the characters’ faces and emotions. The color pallet in the past uses subdued yellows and oranges to convey dullness and only changes to bright colors, such as deep blues and purples, whenever the focus changes solely to past Otis. This is likely to signify the freedom he feels when his father is not around, but also the darkness his father feels without his son. The present is contrasted with a dark atmosphere due to where Otis’s head is while in rehab. The cinematographer, Natasha Braier brings beauty to the depressing story being told on screen.
LeBeouf’s writing leaves little be desired. It feels apparent that he poured his heart into this script, and I can imagine that portraying a character based off his own father was no easy task. Each character feels real and every scene with Otis and his father feels uncomfortable and tense. As the first movie LeBeouf wrote alone, he did a tremendous job.
The acting is excellent. Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe are both excellent as Otis. Some of the smaller roles, such as FKA Twigs as Shy Girl and Martin Starr as Alec, stood out next to the stars. However, the real star of the show is LaBeouf as James, Otis’s abusive father. His performance allows us to both sympathize with James while still being disgusted at the way he treats his son. LaBeouf had an amazing year in 2019. Between his performances in Honey Boy and Peanut Butter Falcon, Shia LaBeouf has proven that he is an incredibly capable actor.
Honey Boy is a depressing and insightful tale into Shia LaBeouf’s past as a child actor. I am excited to see what both he and Alma Har’el make next.