Movie Review: Honey Boy
by Julie Perez
Suddenly writing a script based on my traumatic experiences feels like the perfect form of therapy.
Being that Shia LaBeouf has spent plenty of time trending for his chaotic actions, there’s a high chance that anybody going in to see Honey Boy has some sort of assumption about him. Negative or otherwise, the film is guaranteed to strip you away of any pre-conceived notions you may have about the actor. The idea of a celebrity is full of unrealistic expectations and Honey Boy forces you to strip all of that away.
Noah Jupe plays twelve-year-old Otis Lort, a child actor with an overbearing and often emotionally-abusive (sometimes physically-abusive) father, who is played by Shia. What this story so brilliantly does is, it leads through two different sides of one storyline. While we experience Noah Jupe living as twelve-year-old Otis, we also get a glimpse of Otis’s rock bottom as Lucas Hedges plays Otis as he works through his trauma while in his early twenties.
Written by Shia LaBeouf at a time where he was forced into a mental institution (as opposed to being throwing in jail) and diagnosed with PTSD, Honey Boy feels like the other side of a breakthrough in therapy. There is no denying that watching this film is unsettling and uncomfortable, you will find yourself constantly shifting in your seat, but it’s the genuine performances that keep you engaged and hopeful.
Noah Jupe leads with his heart. He takes the lead, as young Otis, in a beautiful and genuine manner that forces you to immediately care about his character. Underrated Lucas Hedges shines in every single scene he is in and you instantly find yourself aching for what he is going through as older Otis. Lucas clearly did his homework and it shows; he seems to have studied Shia LaBeouf to the point that his body language mirrored Shia’s, his cadence sounded identical and each moment felt heartbreakingly-real. Shia is at his career-best in Honey Boy, the cathartic experience of playing his own father has forced him to scrub the deepest parts of himself, which makes him excel on screen. With a receding hairline and big glasses, his physical transformation allows for Shia to completely disappear.
Director, Alma Har’el’s vision comes together beautifully. She forces us to focus on the subtleties, she allows us to sit in the quiet moments and creates a space for the audience to analyze their feelings. Though Honey Boy tells a specific story, it somehow feels universal and maybe that’s where the power of this film lies.
Honey Boy may inevitably cause you to analyze your own relationship with your father, you’ve been warned.