From child star to laughing stock of Hollywood to indie darling, Shia LaBeouf has had a life arguably more notable than his career. After suffering from the effects that come from childhood stardom and going through the worst years of his life in a time where the world would rather laugh than help, he has bounced back, creating a wonderful career for himself via films such as The Peanut Butter Falcon and American Honey, with Honey Boy serving as his crowning achievement.
Penning the script himself, LaBeouf writes with brutal honesty, draining himself of his most scarring memories and using them for the ink in which he writes. It shows an extreme maturing in the star’s character and promises great things if he were to ever pursue a serious career in writing.
As for the directing, no other director could have done as good a job as Alma Har’el. Her speciality in documentary filmmaking blends perfectly with the realist – and at points surrealist – style of Honey Boy. Her handling of the fictional characters (but very real stories) allows the audience to be truly sucked in to the narrative. The treatment of both Otis (a stand-in for LaBeouf) and James (LaBeouf’s father) is particularly excellent, creating a claustrophobic feel whenever the unpredictable father is on screen, yet still looking at him through an empathetic lens.
The portrayal of Otis – both at the age of twelve and twenty-two – by Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges are another big factor in the film’s success. Jupe in particular puts in an extremely relatable performance, encapsulating LaBeouf’s youth, attitude, and pain so well.
Making the film was a risky move for Shia LaBeouf, not only due to its themes of child abuse but because of the context behind it. If it had failed, it could have been the last nail in the coffin for LaBeouf’s career – in the mainstream that is – as well as a crushing blow for the man himself, having put himself out in the open in the way that he has. Thankfully it does pay off, giving the world a great movie in Honey Boy.