The Reel Review
Shia LaBoeuf injects his own autobiographical experiences into his dramatic tale about the emotional scars inflicted on a child actor by his abusive, emotionally-volatile father. LaBeouf wrote Honey Boy while in court-appointed drug rehab following his arrest for public drunkenness while filming 2019’s The Peanut Butter Falcon.
LaBoeuf clearly uses the film as therapy to work out his daddy issues, both through Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Ben Is Back) as Otis, an actor forced to confront his anger and PTSD after a DUI lands him in drug rehab, and via flashbacks ten years prior, where we witness the destructive, co-dependent relationship between the child actor and his jealous father, played by Noah Jupe (Ford v Ferrari, A Quiet Place) and LaBeouf himself. Their setting is a dumpy motel near the TV studio where Otis is working to support his parents.
Alma Har’el, in her big screen directorial debut, provides an insightful glimpse inside the dysfunctional world of drug addiction and mental illness. The raw and realistic acting throughout is so uncomfortably good that you feel like you intruding on intensely private moments. But while this depressing story is no doubt, cathartic for LaBoeuf, for the rest of us, other than illustrating the sad, cyclical effects of emotional abuse, the plot-free film is more a well done character portrait than an actual story.
• Shia LaBeouf hadn’t spoken to his father for 7 years prior to making Honey Boy. But he traveled to Costa Rica (where his registered sex offender father is on the run from U.S. authorities), telling Jeffrey that his idol Mel Gibson was playing him, to get his father’s authorization for the film.
• Shia LaBeouf’s mother Shayna was on set every day of filming Honey Boy.
• Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll) is the voice of the mother in Honey Boy. LaBeouf decided to remove her onscreen scenes to better illustrate that traumatic time in Otis’ life when his mother wasn’t there.