4YE Reviews: Shia LeBeouf, Noah Jupe, And Lucas Hedges Shine In Semi-Autobiographical Honey Boy

Credit: Amazon Studios

Honey Boy tells the thought-provoking story of child actor Otis Lort and his relationship with father James, a former rodeo clown. The film jumps between two timelines. One is set in 1995, exploring Otis’ younger years growing up in a motel complex surrounded by alcohol, drugs and his abusive father. The other is set in 2005 where Otis has succumbed to the pressures of showbiz and is undergoing rehabilitation and intense counseling.

Honey Boy was written by Shia LeBeouf and directed by Alma Har’el, whose previous credits include the award-winning documentary Bombay Beach. Honey Boy marks Har’el’s narrative feature directorial debut. The film stars Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges in the role of Otis throughout the years, as well as Shia LeBeouf as James Lort. The movie also stars FKA Twigs, Byron Bowers and Natasha Lyonne.

The acting-chops witnessed in Honey Boy deserve special praise. Shia LeBeouf is delivering a career-best performance, while Noah Jupe’s portrayal of a young Otis once again proves that he is – excuse the cliché line – one to watch. Lucas Hedges simply defies words, but will likely continue to be one of the most underrated and unappreciated actors of our generation. Otis’ struggle in the past to make sense of his father’s manic and irrational behaviour is mirrored in Otis’ struggle to put his childhood experiences and the PTSD he is diagnosed with into words. It is an internal struggle that is as difficult to watch as it must have been to write.

This heart-breaking film marks Shia LeBeouf’s screenwriting debut, as the actor delves into his own childhood experiences, and has previously spoken about writing Honey Boy as part of his own therapy and how it helped him rebuild the relationship with his father. “Prior to this my father and me hadn’t spoken in six, seven years. We are talking now,” he said at the Sundance premiere of Honey Boy.

LaBeouf’s personal connection to Honey Boy is most evident in the attention to detail put into every single aspect of the film, including its finely crafted script and the nuanced direction by Har’el. Honey Boy reeks of pain and oozes emotion, but this moving semi-autobiographical retelling of Shia LeBeouf’s life feels authentic and self-reflectory. And, maybe more importantly, it feels cathartic.

Honey Boy hits UK theatres this Friday, December 6. The film has already been released in the US.

Verena Cote
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