Shia LaBeouf purges the demons of his past in a boldly styled piece of autobiographical self-examination.
Written by Shia LaBeouf as a rehab task, ‘Honey Boy’ is both a frank self-appraisal and a public apology from someone seeking to start over. Entrusted to the right director in Alma Har’el, it’s gruelling yet disarming. She gives his vulnerable exercise an unruly shape and maps the chaos of addiction with guts and style.
It kicks off with impressionistic recreations of a stunt from some massive tentpole movie circa mid-2000s (presumably a ‘Transformers’ film) alongside off-set misdeeds perpetrated by LaBeouf, here renamed Otis and played by Lucas Hedges. Otis is soon in therapy, revisiting a boyhood that’s tinged with neglect – and worse.
Those memories lead to a different, ’90s-set plot strand: LaBeouf plays his own cruel father, an alcoholic Vietnam vet, convicted sex offender and ex-rodeo clown called James. Working on the set of a TV production with his lonely child-actor son (Noah Jupe, dazzling), he spends his days failing to stay sober and feeling inferior to Otis, who technically maintains their livelihoods.
Har’el toggles smartly between the two eras. In numerous face-offs between the manipulative James and the mature yet helpless Otis, writer LaBeouf earns the audience’s compassion for his younger self. He’s taken on this tricky and no doubt painful subject matter with gravity and depth, and ‘Honey Boy’ can’t be dismissed as yet another LaBeouf caper. It’s a reminder of a talent that, despite LaBeouf’s own worst instincts, refuses to be snuffed out.
Cast and crew