Honey Boy (3 stars)

Honey Boy

Shia LaBeouf collaborates with award-winning director Alma Har'el on an intense autobiographical drama

Shia LaBeouf may be best known as the hero in the first three Transformers movies, or perhaps as the performance artist who wore a brown paper bag on his head. Following public battles with drugs and alcohol, resulting in a couple of arrests, LaBeouf spent time in rehab. Not to waste a second, whilst there he wrote the semiautobiographical Honey Boy – a title which comes from his childhood nickname, given to him by his father. As cathartic as it obviously was for LaBeouf, it's a take on the parent-child relationship that's so intense it's almost hallucinogenic.

Portraying James Lort, a character based on his own father, LaBeouf has written a familiar tale of abuse and survival that also treads experimental ground with a lot of love, anger and bravado thrown in. The protagonist Otis (A Quiet Place's Noah Jupe) is a wise, loving boy who grows into a dangerous, reckless man (Lucas Hedges, taking over the role). Jumping between the 90s and the 00s, Otis's journey is indulgent, irritating and emotional.

The narrative feature debut of award-winning Israeli-American documentarian Alma Har'el (Bombay Beach) rises above what could have so easily been a sodden tale of woe. Although you may sometimes want to roll your eyes, the consistently hazy, honey tones of Natasha Braier's cinematography remind us that this is a perception of an experience.

Hedges is impressive as he displays power, angst, anger and pain, while Jupe is touching as the confused, sensitive boy who loves his father and can't, like the audience, figure out why he's so awful. LaBeouf is virtually unrecognisable as his father and imbues him with a certain vehemence. Anyone whose upbringing was difficult will be able to relate. Memorable imagery and nuanced performances sweeten a sometimes bitter, ultimately unrepentant look at the beginnings of a tangled and infamous life.

Selected release from Fri 6 Dec.

Honey Boy

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 34min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Alma Har'el
  • Written by: Shia LaBeouf
  • Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe

Otis (Jupe, later Hedges) is the son of a difficult father, James (LaBeouf, playing a character based on his own father), in a story that goes back and forth between the 90s and 00s. Obviously a cathartic tale for actor turned screenwriter LaBeouf, it’s indulgent, irritating and emotional but has impressive performances…