Honey Boy review: Daddy's boy Shia LaBeouf gets even in autobiographical drama

Shia LaBeouf was mainly brought up by his dad, who was an addict. And when Shia was little, he was addicted to his dad. That’s what emerges from this autobiographical drama, scripted by LaBeouf and featuring one of his best performances. How Freudian that he may end up winning awards for playing his own dad, known here as James Lort. James is shown to be pathetically insecure, as well as terrifying. He isn’t the wind beneath his son’s wings. He’s the typhoon.

Shia’s alter ego is Otis. Framing scenes, set in 2005, show the volatile, pompous, Hollywood star (played by Lucas Hedges), being sent by the courts to rehab. Otis’s grandiose meltdowns are re-enacted with mischievous panache. By contrast the sequences in which Otis gets with the programme are a tad obvious. Our hero starts writing about his dad and his anger and confusion abate. Art therapy is The Change That Worked. We get it. The flashbacks to 1995 are far more involving. LaBeouf, as in recent low-budget gem The Peanut Butter Falcon, is intense without being shouty, and very, very funny. As the aesthetically challenged James, he sniffs around pretty women like a mangy dog on heat.

Meanwhile, Londoner Noah Jupe (a pint-sized genius) as 12-year-old Otis — whose TV and film career James is supposedly managing — flip-flops expertly between innocence and experience.
During a telephone call, Otis relays his mum’s messages, adopting her martyr-ish tones, then relays the dad’s messages, with his bellicose snarl. Thanks to Jupe, the boy resembles a tragic puppet, only valuable when voicing the words of others.

There are some fab lines. After a horrible row, James says “I’m growing, son.” Otis, eager to make the peace, replies, “I know! I see that!” “No,” grins the dad, “I’m growing marijuana.” Otis also tells James, “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t pay you.”

This is bleak stuff. But it’s also hellishly entertaining.