Cast: Shia Lebouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, FKA Twigs and Byron Bowers
Directed by Alma Har’el
Written by Shia Lebouf
From the mind of Shia Lebouf, ‘Honey Boy’ delivers a deeply personal story of Lebouf’s own childhood, the relationship he has with his father and his experiences working as a child actor. Characterised by two intersecting narratives, with one following a 12 year old Shia (Noah Jupe), as he works on set whilst sharing a motel with his father, who is aptly played by Shia Lebouf himself. The second story provides an insight into Shia’s early adult life, following a performance by Lucas Hedges as Lebouf struggles through the hardships of rehab and PTSD from his own childhood experiences. Despite this appearing to be a one-man show, the entire film is carried brilliantly by its dynamic cast and the influence of director Alma Har’el.
For a story that almost feels as if it’s confined to the experiences of just one man, ‘Honey Boy’ allows room for all three of the films leads to provide their own clear impact on the story. The unrelenting harshness of Lebouf’s father, James Lort, is portrayed in a deeply human way by the person that felt the greatest effect of Lort’s struggles with sobriety and despondency – his own son. Furthermore, for someone so young, the trauma that Noah Jupe brings to the film is heart-breaking, and reflects the deep impact that his father has on his life. There’s a dramatic irony to the hope the audience feels towards Jupe’s character, as we believe that he may break away from this corrupt relationship and live a happier life, but the film only responds with its other narrative of an older Lebouf struggling through rehab. Once again, Lucas Hedges role as Shia struggling at this stage provides a clear impact to ‘Honey Boy,’ performing almost like a distant echo of the hope seen in Jupe’s character.
Whilst Shia’s voice remains strong throughout the film’s narrative, as a result of his authorship over the screenplay, Alma Har’el still makes her mark on ‘Honey Boy.’ The entire film maintains consistently opposing themes of hope and desperation that are articulated beautifully through all elements of the film. In particular, though the visuals and the composition may mark this film as one that re-iterates some fairly standard indie film ideas, they still show a unique flair that brings the narrative together. Alex Somers delivers an excellent score filled with a modern approach to ambience that fleshes out any scene that it touches. The music reflects the setting and situation in which the characters find themselves, and quietly draws the viewer into that world.
Although the film may not have received widespread mainstream attention, it still feels like an important release for many reasons. A mainly female-led crew and director shows a step in the right direction for the film industry, and the story also showcases the strength and promise of young performers such as Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges and even FKA Twigs, who breathed life into every scene she was in. As well as this, it shows a look towards a fresh start for Shia, who undeniably deserves it based on the quality of his screenwriting and acting abilities on display in ‘Honey Boy.’