ITOL 2019 Roundup: Honey Boy

Runtime: 94 minutes

Director: Alma Har’el

Writer: Shia LaBeouf

Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe


By Jenni Holtz


“Honey Boy” is a deeply sad, yet still hopeful story of a child, Otis, who essentially raised himself. That child’s story is largely based on the life of Shia LaBeouf, the writer and star of the film who plays his own abusive father. The film is raw and hard to watch at times as a young Otis (Noah Jupe) acts to support his parents while living in a motel with his father, James (Shia LaBeouf). Even with the upsetting events that take place, Otis finds joy in his work and through his friendship with a neighbor (FKA Twigs). 


The timeline makes you feel like you’re looking back at childhood through the eyes of Otis as an adult. The film opens with an older Otis (Lucas Hedges) on a film set as he deals with alcohol issues, landing him in rehab. Through therapy sessions, Otis reflects on his life and comes to terms with just how much harm his childhood inflicted. The therapy scenes are all-too-real. They address trauma head-on, spliced with depictions of the abuse itself. Though hard to watch, the scenes are filmed with empathy for Otis. The hard side of therapy is rarely shown in such a realistic and frank manner. “Honey Boy” manages to show what abuse and its aftereffects look like without (re)traumatizing the audience. Such a feat is not a small victory and the director Alma Har’el and writer Shia LaBeouf deserve ample praise for their impeccable work. 


“Honey Boy” is a deeply human film about alcohol abuse, abusive parents, and growing up in the acting industry. Each scene is filmed with care and a strong attention to detail, making for a one-of-a-kind film that is just as messy and complicated as the life of its subject, Shia LaBeouf. “Honey Boy” will make you smile, tear up, and think deeply about how society treats celebrities during their life struggles.


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