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Honey Boy: Healing in Motion

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There comes a point in Honey Boy, a semi-autobiographical film that explores child actor Otis Lort's relationship with his outlaw father, where you cease to appreciate that it as a film and begin to understand it as a profound form of therapy for screenwriter and supporting actor Shia LaBeouf.

A film like this, where tender moments and relationship-building scenes are allowed to play out without epiphany or melodrama, lives and dies based on its performances. It's no surprise then that Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, each playing 12 and 22-year-old versions of Otis respectively, give award-calibre performances.

It would be impossible to write this review without also acknowledging the raw, revelatory and outright hard-to-watch performance of LaBeouf, who plays - for all intents and purposes - his own abusive father. It is utterly unlike anything you will see this decade, an inimitable performance defined by LaBeouf's intimate understanding about his character, the man who raised him.

But the film is truly carried by the direction of Alma Har'el, this being the narrative debut of the acclaimed documentarian. Her experience with documentary lends a refreshing style of direction to the picture. Har'el knows how to frame discomfort, she understands how to make anger feel real and she has a grasp on how to capture deep intimacy without sacrificing subtlety. The childhood of Otis is shot like a warm-hued and vivid dream, while his present is a blue-tinted nightmare of claustrophobia and anxiety.

Honey Boy barely feels like cinema as much as it does a collection of journal entries of a man wrestling with trauma. Honey Boy, as personal a story as it is, explores the very universal idea that we all inherit our parents' trauma, yet we will never understand it. And that's okay - because we don't have to.

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