'Honey Boy': Shia LeBeouf’s Searing and Boldly Forthright Depiction of His Own Pained Adolescence
“Honey Boy” (2019) is actor Shia LeBeouf’s stunningly honest, semi-autobiographical recreation of his own formidable adolescence, as a gifted young Hollywood performer named Otis saddled with his hotheaded, often volatile father James (played by LeBeouf) as his legal guardian.
The storyline shifts to and fro between 1995 and 2005, the former depicting a period when 12-year-old burgeoning talent Otis (Noah Jupe) strains to share a shabby motel room with James, while the latter illustrates time spent by caustic 22-year-old Otis (Lucas Hedges) in an alcohol treatment center. Coming up as a child actor and product of his parents’ splintered marriage, Otis relies on James for legal wardenship even as he benefits from greater overall maturity and reasoning. A decade later, Hedges portrays Otis as a fully-realized Hollywood star beset by multiple traumas at the hands of James years earlier—desperate to shed the anguish bestowed upon him at such an impressionable age.
Written by LeBeouf and directed by Israeli-American music video director Alma Har'el (in her feature film debut), “Honey Boy” is a highly-stylized and strikingly forthright depiction of wanton calamity and the binding affinity of kinship. All three leads deliver powerhouse performances to this emotionally weighty portraiture of dysfunction and hard-fought compromise, amounting to one of the most achingly genuine, stunningly sincere human dramas of the entire year.
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