Honey Boy (2019)

Director: Alma Har'el
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Certification: 15
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs, Maika Monroe, Natasha Lyonne, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers, Laura San Giacomo, Clifton Collins Jr.

In 2005, Otis (Lucas Hedges) is a movie star who suffers from alcoholism. After a car accident and a violent altercation with the police, Otis is forced to attend a rehab facility, where his counsellor encourages him to look into his past. Running concurrently are scenes set in 1995, where Otis (now played by Noah Jupe) works as a child actor. Accompanying him is his father (Shia LaBeouf), a volatile man with an abusive streak.

Based upon his own experiences, Shia LaBeouf wrote this script during his time in rehab, which served as a form of therapy for him. What he's written is a powerful depiction of his past, highlighting the trauma which was inherited from his father. Bringing it alive is director Alma Har'el, in her debut directing a narrative feature, who magnificently captures the raw nature of this story. Peppered throughout are dreamlike intervals, which encapsulate the fears, hopes, and wants of these broken figures, with each feeling vital in getting to the core of these characters.

Continuing his upward trajectory, Noah Jupe takes the lead role of Otis, during the scenes set in 1995. Working on the set of a TV series, he finds himself pressured to do a good job by his father. But as much as he wants to be an actor, Otis just wants to hear his father say that he loves him. You can feel the sadness in Jupe's performance, who just wants to hold his dads hand, but finds his desires for a loving family are routinely dashed. A heartbreaking scene has Otis acting as the middleman, while his parents have a fight over the phone. A special mention is deserved for musician FKA Twigs, pouring so much empathy into the role of Shy Girl, who offers Otis the support and warmth he deserves.

Not just working on the screenplay, Shia LaBeouf steps in front of the camera to essentially play his own father. James is a man full of anger, and you can feel it simmering away within the portrayal, leaving viewers on edge. We're left waiting for him to snap over something so small, to see the nasty effects his coiled rage has, and how it effects those around him. But he's not just a caricature. As told in an emotionally revealing scene, James was a victim of abuse, and through his life, has carried on that destructive cycle himself. A man hounded by his own personal demons, he's captured with such understanding, while excuses are never made for his awful actions. He could've easily been played as a one-note antagonist, but is handled in such an introspective way, and is all the more compelling for it.

The film rests on Jupe and LaBeouf for so much, and this exemplary pair deliver the power and emotion nestled within this story. So much so, they overshadow the 2005 segments, which sees Lucas Hedges ably portray an adult Otis. Despite feeling overly familiar, these portions are compelling in their own right, they just had the misfortune to be paired alongside something even stronger. Irregardless of this, we're left with an emotionally devastating piece of work.