Honey Boy (2019) dir. Alma Har’el: The Love, Trauma, and Pain of Honey Boy

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A seed has to completely destroy itself to become a flower

Alma Har’els’ 2019 hit indie film, Honey Boy, is one that tells the semi-autobiographical story of, actor, Shia LaBeouf’s childhood and his journey navigating an abusive relationship with his alcoholic father. While the overall plot of the film is one that’s been portrayed countless times, Har’els’ and LaBeouf’s approach to the heartbreaking story is one that’s never been seen before. The film follows the main character, Otis, as he is forced to check into a rehabilitation clinic after getting into an incident with the police. The film then switches back and forth between young Otis’s (Noah Jupe) experiences as a neglected, cigarette-addicted child actor and older Otis’s (Lucas Hedges) PTSD-fueled breakdown in rehab. Otis’s relationship with his father, James, (Shia LaBeouf) is portrayed as a complex one rooted in his father’s alcoholism and neglectful nature. The one ray of light throughout the story is Otis’s loving relationship with Shy Girl (FKA Twigs), a gauche sex worker who lives near him.

Their friendship beautifully and respectfully portrayed the ways in which children with trauma drift to people who show their love, without having a sexualized or abusive undertone. Scenes such as the one where Otis and Shy Girl pantomime playing ball, cause a momentary sharp end to the chaotic nature of the film and allow the audience to appreciate the film for what it truly is: a masterpiece. The movie ends with one simple but heartbreaking interaction between Otis and his father as Otis tells him he’s going to make a movie about him. “well alright, make me look good, Honey Boy”.

Overall the film was phenomenal, with acting so powerful it sent multiple people in the theatre to tears. Despite their young age, Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedge’s performances were impressive and marked just how insanely talented both actors are. Honey Boy is a film that anyone could enjoy and truly fall in love with. 


Rating: 97/100