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Memoirs of a Child Actor: A TIFF Review of ‘Honey Boy’

September 18, 2019Ben MK

Although he's best known for his role in Michael Bay's Transformers movies, Shia LaBeouf hasn’t always been blessed with blockbuster success. Now, in the semi-autobiographical Honey Boy, the actor opens up about his childhood, his problems with addiction, and his turbulent relationship with his father.

Directed by Alma Har'el, the film stars LaBeouf as James, father of Otis (played alternately by Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges). Jumping between 1995 and 2005, the narrative follows Otis at age 12 and Otis at age 22, the former being an up-and-coming child actor who lives with his manager father — who also happens to be a Vietnam veteran and a recovering alcoholic — in a roadside motel, and the latter being a young man for whom drug and alcohol abuse have pushed to the brink, earning him a stint in rehab after a nasty car crash and a PTSD diagnosis.

As these two timelines converge at their inevitable nexus, viewers are presented with the answer to the story's burning question: Will Otis be able to make peace with himself and with the man who raised him? The answer may not surprise you, but what makes Honey Boy resonate isn't the destination — it's the journey.

Honey Boy makes its international premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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