Shia LaBeouf has always been one of the most fascinating human beings to me. He taps into creativity like no one I have ever seen and doesn’t seem to be at all fazed by what people think of him. He’s always 100 percent himself and never seems to hold back, whether he’s angry, confused or sad.
His semi-autobiographical drama, Honey Boy — which he both wrote and stars in — is a brutally honest portrait of LaBeouf’s unconventional upbringing and his relationship with his erratic, ex-rodeo clown father (played by LaBeouf). We follow LaBeouf’s journey through Otis Lort (played by Noah Jupe as a preteen, and Lucas Hedges as an adult), a former child star whose life is contaminated with trouble, law-breaking antics and substance abuse.
LaBeouf’s on-screen story, directed with visual splendor and patient grace by Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach, 11/8/16) is like being invited into a private club that only family and close friends of the subject are allowed to witness. There is no fear in LaBeouf’s pen as he shares moments of discomfort and abuse that feel true to the human experience.
This carries over into LaBeouf’s performance as his father. All shades of his father’s character are on display, and not in a form that tries to paint him as a horrible person. A lot of love can be absorbed through his instability, especially in the conclusion, when Otis talks to his father about writing a movie about their lives. It’s thematically and emotionally breaking the fourth wall in a way that elevates the film to a poetic platform.
A significant portion of Honey Boy‘s running time is dedicated to Otis’ attempt to mend his ties to his dad. It’s heartbreaking to see the many hardships that LaBeouf endured in his life to win his father’s affection. Some may chuckle and solely think of the kid who took pies to the face and screamed his head off around robots, but this cinematic account makes you want to reach through the screen and hug LaBeouf.
It goes to show you that the world should put more focus on mental health and depression. Not everyone is OK, and that highlight is what gives Honey Boy a therapeutic quality. It’s not a film that throws salt on our wounds. It’s about healing and finding peace within oneself when all you want to do is raise hell for all your hurt.
LaBeouf and Har’el unleash one of the year’s best, most moving narratives. I would not be surprised if LaBeouf was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts. If anything, his writing needs to be decorated in gold. Particular lines from the script have sat with me for weeks and are still taking me to unique areas of thought. Allow the film to do the same for you.