I cannot imagine what it must be like for an actor to write a script that is deeply rooted within their personal stories and then have to act them out in a different perspective than that of their own, but Shia LeBeouf has decided to take that dive with director Alma Har’el in “Honey Boy”.
With a title that comes from the nickname his own father gave him growing up, LaBeouf plays a version of the man that was more of a chaperone than a positive male role model in what could go down as one of his most intense and gritty roles ever. Told through two different times in the life of Otis (played as a twelve-year-old by Noah Jupe and a twenty-two-year-old by Lucas Hedges), this is one of those stories that shows how whom we become can be directly related to the path that we have walked and in some cases, those we have been around. While the younger Otis is getting his acting career up and running while living with his father in a hotel room, the older one is spending time in rehab after multiple attempts and dealing with not only his mental health but also the ghosts of his past.
Paying any attention to the entertainment industry headlines, the issues that LeBeouf has gone through in the last couple of decades is definitely on display here to the point of discomfort. There is no doubt that this was the pure intention of Har’el, whose experience in documentaries and videos serves her very well. Watching how Otis’ path of self-destruction begins and manifests itself is simply riveting, and I found myself leaning forward in concentration and investment multiple times. There is also a very good supporting turn by the great Laura San Giacomo as his rehab therapist who takes him to places he simply does not want to go as well as Byron Bowers as Percy, his rehab roommate to just wants to help him stay grounded during his stay.
“Honey Boy” is one of those films that stayed with me for hours after the screening I attended, and in the best of possible ways. More than just a study in mental health and growing up in an industry that kids should not be exposed to more than they absolutely should be, this is a film that demands the attention of its audience and refuses to let go for the entire just-under-ninety-minute runtime it carries. I cannot recommend this film enough, and I truly hope that the awards committees take the time to give this film the serious consideration it deserves.