The sins of the father shall fall upon the son.
This may be a raw home truth for Honey Boy’s writer and creator, Shia LaBeouf. The film is, after all, about the actor’s abusive relationship with his own father, who’s actions left Shia mentally scarred and on a well-documented path to self-destruction. The downwards spiral of his promising acting career followed by the deterioration of his personal life, resulted in LaBeouf being sentenced to court-imposed rehab back in 2017 and it was here, during his battle with childhood trauma, that LaBeouf began writing the screenplay for his own brilliantly raw and honest redemption arc.
Honey Boy jumps between LaBeouf’s time in rehab and his lucrative childhood career as an up and coming TV star. Instead of playing himself in the film, LaBeouf portrays James Lort, a fictional character inspired by his father. It’s a sort of cathartic experience for the actor as it allows him to embody and vent all the hatred he was once subjected to as a child. This approach results in one of LaBeouf’s best performances to date and is one well worthy of praise come awards season.
The other component of Honey Boy’s success comes in the form of A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe. Jupe, who plays the fictionalised child version of LaBeouf, manages to beautifully balance his character’s ambition to succeed with a desire to constantly please his dad. The dynamic between both Jupe and LaBeouf’s characters is so complex and believable that, every so often, amidst all the late-night beatings and psychological torture, it’s possible to make out moments where the pair are in pure adoration of each other. When the credits role, you will be left wondering whether to condemn or absolve LaBeouf’s real-life dad and it is this dilemma that the film leaves firmly in your hands.
For more info, check out this Hollywood Reporter article on how Mel Gibson was originally tipped to play the role of Shia’s father.