In Honey Boy, Shia LeBeouf takes ownership of his own screwed-up childhood back when he starred on a Disney Channel series and splashes it on the big screen in a form of performance therapy. This biographical shrink session, based on a script he wrote as part of his rehab, is a far cry from his Transformers sci-fi blockbusters that get a skewering in the opening moments. On top of that, he makes matters even more interesting by playing his own shiftless, unstable and self-absorbed abusive father – probably the most honest acting he will ever achieve as he attempts to shoo away the demons that haunt him.
It might sound self-indulgent, but this is a rather riveting and moving portrait of what happens too often to child stars, thanks to the two profoundly talented actors who play LeBeouf — whose alter-ego is called Otis Lort — at age 12 and in his 20s. Noah Jupe (Wonder, A Quiet Place, the upcoming Ford v Ferrari) is quite a find as he manages to deal with some rather mature situations that faced LaBeouf as a kid living with his irresponsible, violence-prone father in a sleazy motel that at times recalls moments from The Florida Project. And there no need for an introduction to the terrific Lucas Hedges, Oscar-nominated for Manchester by the Sea, who must undergo rehab after crashing a car and getting into a drunken altercation with the police. Director Alma Har’el isn’t afraid of letting what unfolds get a bit messy, but she handles the two timelines well enough while avoiding confusion as Otis’ past and present intertwine.
Bravo to LeBeouf being brave enough to dig deep both in his acting and his writing while inviting the public to participate in his healing process.