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Honey Boy Movie Review: Father, Forgive Me For I’ve Not Sinned

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Honey Boy(Amazon Studios)

Starring Shia LaBeouf,Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe

Directed  Alma Har’el

Rating: ** ½ (two and a  half stars)

Confessional films are  cathartic  for  the filmmaker. They  need not have the same effect  on  the audience. I remained largely unmoved by Shia LeBeouf’s dramatic and traumatic  but emotionally sterile  travel back to his childhood  to confront the demons of  his past.

The  film focuses on his  extremely troubled relationship with his felonious father who looked after the child’s  reasonably successful career as an actor. The perceptive Otis(played by the beautiful  child Noah Jupe) points  out to his rudderless dad that the only reason they were  together was because Otis was  the  only one who would give his father a  job.Truth, sometimes, is uglier than  lies.

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It’s  a terribly troubled togetherness and  the scenes between father and son explode in  bouts of accusation and  guilt. This is a parent-child pair  that fills us  with despair. Israeli-American director Alma Har’el shoots them  together  like a  couple of  bears  in  a box,circling and  pummeling  each other in  pursuit of a  common ground.

The  child  should not even be there. The father  (played by  Shia who is playing his own father) is dangerous and self-destructive. The  child is heartbreakingly desolate, and grows up a nervous wreck.Both the  child and grownup  versions  of  Otis  are played with  marvellous insight, by  Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, respectively.

The  narrative  plays  a fascinating  but disturbing hide ‘n’ seek with the  child and his adult avatar, one feeding off from the other in a strangely destructive  symbiotic relationship.LeBeouf  playing his own father is  as usual, terrific in a rebellious part. Can he  ever  play straight?He  rips into his character’s soul  tearing into the  father’s troubled  consciousness to find redeeming shreds of  humanism.

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 For a film directed  by  a woman the female characters are surprisingly few and  shadowy.  Otis’ mother is  a mere voice  on the phone. There is a lengthy sequence  where the parents fight  over the phone via Otis. The savagery  of  the  squabble is palpable. As in many of the  key sequences the  boy actor Noah Jupe  completely owns the emotions. It is hard to imagine what  Honey Boy  would be without this wunderkind.

 I must say it’s sporting of  LeBeouf to let the child take centrestage  in a story that he clearly owns.Having said that, I must say I found the  film short of  truly moving moments except when  little Otis is with his neighbour, a  silent girl(credited as ‘Shy Girl’) who gives him the shoulder and bosom  he so desperately  needs.

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When Otis’s father catches them together he accuses the  girl of sleeping with his  child.

“I didn’t  f..k your son.You did,” the girl speaks up for a change.Pun intended.