Shia Labeouf’s HONEY BOY Is a Brutally Honest Portrayal of His Relationship with His Dad - Sundance Review

Shia Labeouf made his screenwriting debut with his latest film project Honey Boy. He got to work on this film project right after he ended up getting out of rehab. 

Over the years we’ve watched Shia Labeouf turn from this wholesome child star on the Disney Channel to a wild individual who was doing all kinds of strange and crazy things. Regardless of all that, I’ve always been a fan of his work. You can’t deny that the guy has made some fantastic films in his life and has offered some great performances. 

Not only did Labeouf write Honey Boy, but he also starred in it. In fact, he plays his own father in the movie, and it is a pretty powerful performance. 

The movie itself tells the heart-wrenching autobiographical story of Shia’s relationship with his father and how that relationship affected him in his life. His father was portrayed as being mentally and physically abusive toward his son. This is a guy who didn’t know how to be a father, but no matter what, his son wanted him around in hopes that one day his dad would wake up and be the father that he always wanted. 

The movie hit me emotionally hard. It wasn’t easy watching a father treat his son so carelessly. As a father myself, I know I’m not perfect, but I really do try my best to let my girls know that I love them. 

I also grew up in the world of entertainment. When I was a kid I was a child actor, and my dad would take me around from audition to audition and chaperone me. I never had the experiences that Lebeouf portrayed in his film, but I did witness other parents treating their kids this way. It was always uncomfortable to see, but I always made the effort to reach out and be their friends. 

The story for the film is split between 1995 when a young Shia Labeouf, who goes by the name of Otis in the movie, is early in his career starring in a silly show for kids. The other part of the film is set in 2005 when Otis is making big budget Transformers-type movies, and this is the part of his life where he finds himself in trouble. After getting in a drunken car wreck, Otis ends up in rehab, and that’s where he begins to look back on his past with his dad and the PTSD that he suffers from due to what he went through. Noah Jupe plays the younger version of Otis while Lucas Hedges plays the older, and they both give stunning performances.

While the movie dealt with some heavy subject matter that was hard to watch, I still loved it, and it gave me a new found respect for Labeouf, both as a person and a talent. I hope to see him write more movies, because the script for this was so good. He poured himself into this movie, you can tell that it was extremely personal and you could see and feel that in the film. It took guts for him to tell this story of his life, and after it was over I just wanted to give him a hug.

The film was directed by Alma Har'el and she did such a wonderful job bringing Shia’s story to life. She brought this story to life in a way that felt so raw and so real, and you can see the love and care that she had for the material.

This is definitely one of my favorites from the festival, and when it’s eventually released I hope that you go and check it out. Here’s the official synopsis:

When 12-year-old Otis starts to find success as a child television star in Hollywood, his ex-rodeo-clown father returns to serve as his guardian. When Otis isn’t on set charming audiences, he spends his days with his father at an extended-stay motel on the edge of the city, enduring his overbearing father’s abuse. Honey Boy follows two threads of time, watching father and son's contentious relationship and their attempts to mend it across the course of a decade.

This stunning collaboration between screenwriter/star Shia LaBeouf and director Alma Har'el paints a painful yet inspired portrait of growing up. LaBeouf’s script dives deep into Otis’s psychology to mine uncomfortable truths about the lasting effects of abuse, while Har'el crafts an exciting, stylish film that never loses sight of its warm, heartfelt center. Two outstanding young actors, Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe, play Otis at different ages, and their intense performances reveal an emotionally raw character driven, simultaneously and paradoxically, by anger and the desire to forgive.

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