Shia LaBeouf delves into the darkest recesses of his soul in Amazon’s riveting Honey Boy based on his autobiographical screenplay about a young actor’s tumultuous childhood and early adult years as he attempts to reconcile his love for his alcoholic father with his pain. LaBeouf wrote the film while in rehab and sent his script to director Alma Har’el who was impressed by what she read. She convinced him to play his father in what became her narrative feature directorial debut. The script is impeccably written with sharply honed dialogue and insightful, moving scenes that allow you to look behind the curtain and appreciate the insensitivity of a profoundly damaged father who’s unable to respond to his son’s emotional needs. The film features superb performances by LaBeouf, Noah Jupe as the young Otis, and Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) as the adult Otis who suffers from PTSD. Both Jupe and Hedges excel at bringing Otis to life. LaBeouf and Jupe’s convincing chemistry together makes for an absolutely compelling film.
LaBeouf has always pushed himself to go as far as he can as an artist and has never hesitated to take on a challenge to investigate and confront his demons, even when it has led to wildly questionable behavior. It was a daring choice for him to play his dad given their complicated relationship. Honey Boy is both a heartbreaking story of survival and a sensitively calibrated portrayal of the turbulent childhood of a son who always strived to love his alcoholic parent. When LaBeouf made this film, he was at a low point in his life with little to lose. His willingness to face the pain he has carried since childhood and to forgive his father informs his creativity and art. Honey Boy is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. It’s transcendent cinema told with authenticity and brutal honesty. This is a beautifully crafted film, and the impressive work by the director, actors and DP Natasha Braier make them worthy contenders for consideration this awards season.