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SAVFF REVIEW — “Honey Boy”

Man of the year: Shia LaBeouf

Honey Boy is directed by Alma Har’el, written by Shia LaBeouf, and stars LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, and FKA Twigs. It tells the story of a young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health. Next in our series our SCAD Savannah Film Festival reviews is the Sundance darling Honey Boy! Shia is the hot boy around town recently. I fully fell in love with his performance in The Peanut Butter Falcon and that, coupled with his truly charming Hot Ones interview, put me in a position where I couldn’t wait to see this. Honey Boy is an incredibly heartfelt, stylish and honest look at a truly insane childhood that showcases some truly incredible performances. This is the most entertaining therapy session I’ve ever seen.

Alma Har’el is making her narrative debut here and you can’t tell for a second. She approaches this material with all of the ambition and energy of a debut but presents it with all the skill and restraint of someone working for years. Her’el’s greatest gift to Honey Boy is her unflinching look at this childhood. If this film is anything, it’s honest. The camera holds on these deeply intimate and hard to watch moments. Her direction almost feels voyeuristic. Shia LaBeouf’s script is deeply personal and surprisingly insightful. LaBeouf is adapting his own childhood here and while that could a bit egotistical or self-serving, this is anything but. LaBeouf presents his life as it was and shows these characters as they were. No one is villainized and no one is victimized. While his father could easily be shown as abusive and selfish, LaBeouf spends a great deal of time humanizing him and making him oddly likable. He’s clearly not a great dad, but we see him at his best and his worst. LaBeouf is also able to pen some truly wonderful lines. The dialogue is so great here. I hope these two never stop making movies because I’ll never stop watching.

Of all that Honey Boy has to offer, it’s performances might be its crown jewel. Noah Jupe gives a fantastic performance here and delivers one of the finest child performances I have seen in years. I haven’t been too impressed with his work in the past, but he really wowed me here. Lucas Hedges also gives yet another engaging performance here and does a surprisingly spot-on impression of Shia LaBeouf. I would have loved to see more of him because he really was a great addition to the film. Let’s move onto the main course. Shia LaBeouf is absolutely fantastic here. He gives a terrific performance here and I could not keep my eyes off here. This is by far the best performance, and I absolutely cannot see where his career takes him next. He’s one of the most exciting talents working right now, and I’m all for this LaBeouf-issance.

On a technical level, Honey Boy is just a stylish as you would expect from an independent debut film. The lighting is vivid and intense, the cinematography is energetic and warm. The editing gives the film a great deal of personality and there are some truly moving and surreal sequences. There’s so much to love about Honey Boy and I absolutely cannot wait to see it again. Long Live Shia. 5/5

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