Honey Boy film review: therapy in motion

Noah Jupe as Otis in Honey Boy.
Noah Jupe as Otis in Honey Boy.

WHEN Shia LaBeouf was told to write down his experiences as a form of therapy, he chose the medium he knows best, that of a film script.

That script has now become the film Honey Boy, a semi-fictionalised account of LaBeouf’s troubled relationship with his father as a child actor and how that affected him well into adulthood.

With the pseudonym Otis, Lucas Hedges plays LaBeouf in 2005, a successful young actor who, after he crashes his car and has a drunken confrontation with police, is told go to a rehab facility.

His counsellor encourages him to look to his past and he remembers back to 1995 as a child (played by Noah Jupe) living with his father James (LaBeouf himself) in a dodgy motel complex.

By day Otis is working on set, James his eccentric manager paid from Otis’ earnings, but by night he is at the whim of his father’s erratic and often aggressive moods despite being four years sober.

Honey Boy is a confident debut feature film from director Alma Har’el, combining moody atmospheric visuals with fantastic performances from her three lead actors.

Jupe is a highlight as the young Otis wise beyond his years but desperately seeking ways to still be a child.

LaBeouf plays his own father with an often unintelligible barrage of ticks and dialogue that is unflattering yet remarkably sympathetic considering the emotional torment he inflicts on Otis presumably happened to him in real life.

Yet Honey Boy seems like it is holding back and in the end feels less like specific insight from the eclectic actor and more a general look at the way toxic behaviours can be inherited.

Honey Boy (MA)

Director: Alma Har’el

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe

Three and a half stars

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