la casa de las flores
what i watched

film fatales #114: honey boy (alma har'el, 2019)

Honey Boy is an uncomfortable movie, and I think that is only partly intended. The film purports to be an honest, autobiographical story about the childhood of Shia LaBeouf, who wrote the film and stars as "his father". "Purports" is unfair ... only LaBeouf knows how accurately Honey Boy represents his early life. He is unsparing in conveying the traumas of his childhood, and he gives the father a scary edge, although an essential humanity peeks through on occasion.

Still, part of the discomfort comes from the feeling that Honey Boy is just a public therapy session for LaBeouf. He's working things out on the screen. He wrote the script while in a ten-week rehab program, and it's good that he has this outlet to get inside his problems. But at times I felt like a voyeur.

Director Alma Har'el, in her first fictional feature, keeps things relatively clear. She is dealing with scenes in the past of young Otis (the stand-in for LaBeouf as a kid, played by Noah Jupe of the Quiet Place movies) and present-day scenes of a grown-up Otis (here played by Lucas Hedges) working his way through rehab. And the grown-up Otis has dreams that we see as fantasy scenes. It's not always coherent, but perhaps it shouldn't be.

The acting is the best thing about the movie. Obviously, there's LaBeouf as the father. Jupe as the 12-year-old Otis is excellent, letting us see the frightened boy inside, but also the kid with enough going on to work in movies supporting his dad. Laura San Giacomo underplays nicely as Otis' therapist in rehab. Natasha Lyonne is in the credits as "Mom", but we only hear her voice.

Honey Boy is not an easy film to watch, and your opinion of LaBeouf will enter into your response to the movie. I recommend it, hesitantly.

[Letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies]


Papa G

Unrelated to anything, Director Alma Har'el also directed the recent Bob Dylan video "Shadow Kingdom"

Steven Rubio

I haven't seen it yet, but it looks v.intriguing.

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