Honey Boy (film)

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Honey Boy
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlma Har'el
Written byShia LaBeouf
Produced by
CinematographyNatasha Braier
Edited by
  • Dominic LaPerriere
  • Monica Salazar
Music byAlex Somers
  • Automatik
  • Stay Gold Features
  • Delirio Films
Distributed byAmazon Studios
Release dates
  • January 25, 2019 (2019-01-25) (Sundance)
  • November 8, 2019 (2019-11-08) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[2][3]
Box office$3.4 million[4][3]

Honey Boy is a 2019 American drama film directed by Alma Har'el (in her narrative feature directorial debut) with a screenplay by Shia LaBeouf, loosely based on his childhood and his relationship with his father. The film stars LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe and FKA twigs.

LaBeouf originally wrote the script as a form of therapy while in rehab. The project was announced in March 2018, and the cast was filled out over the next two months. Filming took place in Los Angeles over the course of about three weeks.

Honey Boy had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019 and was released on November 8, 2019, by Amazon Studios. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised Har'el's direction as well as the performances of LaBeouf, Hedges and Jupe.


In 2005, Otis Lort is a movie star who suffers from alcoholism. He crashes his car and gets into a drunken altercation with the police and is forced to go into rehabilitation.

Dr. Moreno, Otis' counselor, tells him that if he leaves the facility before they say he is ready, the court will send him to prison for his violent offenses. Moreno tells Otis that he has PTSD, which he denies repeatedly, but she encourages him to look into his past through exposure therapy.

Going back a decade earlier to 1995, Otis remembers working as a child actor, often accompanied on set by his father James, a former rodeo clown. James is four years sober but clearly on edge, manic and aggressive. The two live in a meager motel complex where a shy young woman lives across from them. Otis is in the Big Brother program at the behest of his mother, despite James's jealousy. Otis wants to go to a baseball game with Tom from the program, and James agrees if Tom comes over for a barbecue.

In 2005, Otis is shown communicating with his roommate Percy and continues therapy. He resists the process, finding it unhelpful. Returning to his memories, Otis remembers Tom coming over for the barbecue along with James throwing him into the pool and violently threatening him. When he is offered a part in a movie that will be shot in Canada, Otis calls his mother, who is unsure if James can accompany him because of his status as a registered sex offender. This causes James to begin screaming at her via Otis, who has to relay both of his parents' arguments back to each other.

In the present, after resisting therapy yet again, Otis' counselor Alec advises him to go into the woods and scream as loud as he can. James is then shown attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where he talks about his abusive stepmother, how he got into substance abuse, and while blacked out attempted to rape a woman which got him registered as a sex offender. Alone in his room, Otis spends time with the Shy Girl where the two cuddle and he gives her money.

James forces Otis with the rehearsal of his scenes over and over again, and he stops to scream at the neighbors for being too loud. Otis asks him to stop, and tells him that no one else would hire him due to his status as a sex offender, and that Otis is actually in charge since James is making money off of him. In 2005, Otis thanks Alec for the advice, and continues to work with Dr. Moreno on controlling his anger.

In 1995, Otis finally confronts James and tells him he needs to start being a better father. A furious James hits him, then leaves on his motorcycle to acquire drugs at a strip club. Alone, Otis spends time with the Shy Girl, and the two are caught waking up together the next morning by James. The Shy Girl slaps James and leaves, and James asks Otis how he thinks it would feel to be criticized by his own son, and to have to resort to accepting payment from him. Otis tells James that if he did not receive money, James would not be present.

James takes Otis to a patch of marijuana plants he has been growing off the highway and smokes cannabis with him. Back in the present, Otis revisits the motel, and imagines himself finding his father there in his rodeo clown costume. He tells his father he intends to make a movie about him; James asks him to make him look good. The two ride away on James's motorcycle, which fades into Otis riding away alone.



Shia LaBeouf based the script on his own life, with his character being based on his own father, and the title comes from his childhood nickname.[5][6] LaBeouf wrote the script as a part of his rehabilitation program.[7]

In March 2018, it was announced that Lucas Hedges and LaBeouf had joined the cast of the film, with Alma Har'el directing from a screenplay written by LaBeouf himself. Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Christopher Leggett would produce the film under their Automatik, Stay Gold Features and Delirio Films banners, respectively. Fred Berger would serve as an executive producer.[8] LaBeouf had shared the screenplay with Har'el, a friend and creative collaborator, who decided that she wanted to direct it.[7] In April 2018, Noah Jupe joined the cast of the film.[9] In May 2018, Clifton Collins Jr., Maika Monroe, Natasha Lyonne, Martin Starr, Byron Bowers and Laura San Giacomo joined the cast of the film.[10][11] In June 2018, it was announced that FKA twigs had joined the cast of the film.[12]

Asked about how making a film based on his own life affected his rehab, LaBeouf said:

"It is strange to fetishize your pain and make a product out of it and feel guilty about that. It felt very selfish. This whole thing felt very selfish. I never went into this thinking, 'Oh, I am going to fucking help people.' That wasn't my goal. I was falling apart."[7]

Production began in May 2018, in Los Angeles, California, lasting 19 days.[2][13]

In August 2022, LaBeouf revealed that he fabricated a lot for the film, specifically how his father was abusive toward him, when he actually was "...so loving to me my whole life. Fractured, sure. Crooked, sure. Wonky, for sure. But never was not loving, never was not there. He was always there... and I'd done a world press tour about how fucked he was as a man."[14]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019.[15] Shortly after, Amazon Studios acquired distribution rights to the film[16] and eventually released it on November 8, 2019.[17]


Box office[edit]

Honey Boy grossed $3 million in the United States and Canada,[4] and $258,087 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $3.3 million, against a production budget of $3.5 million.[3][2] The film made $301,075 from four theaters in its opening weekend, considered a "strong" start.[18] It expanded to 17 theaters the following weekend, making $203,272.[19]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 94% based on 235 reviews, and an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Honey Boy serves as an act of cinematic therapy for its screenwriter and subject – one whose unique perspective should strike a chord in audiences from all backgrounds."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[21]

A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club wrote, "[A]s a glorified form of drama therapy, Honey Boy is fascinating".[22]

Lindsey Bahr of Associated Press included Honey Boy in her list of the top 10 motion pictures of 2019; Bahr placed the film in the seventh position.[23]


  1. ^ "Honey Boy". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Shia LaBeouf's Process Was Unpredictable, So the 'Honey Boy' Crew Learned to Improvise". IndieWire. November 1, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Honey Boy (2019)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Honey Boy (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  5. ^ "First pictures emerge of Shia LaBeouf playing his own father in Shia LaBeouf biopic". The Independent. June 20, 2018.
  6. ^ "Here's Shia LaBeouf playing his own father in new biopic Honey Boy". 1 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Shia LaBeouf on Writing Biopic 'Honey Boy': "I Was Falling Apart" hollywoodreporter.com
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (March 16, 2018). "Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges To Star In 'Honey Boy'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (April 17, 2018). "'A Quiet Place' Actor Noah Jupe to Play Young Shia LaBeouf in 'Honey Boy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  10. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (May 10, 2018). "'Westworld's Clifton Collins Jr. Joins Lucas Hedges & Shia LaBeouf In 'Honey Boy'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (May 24, 2018). "Maika Monroe Joins Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Nazin, Hafeezah (June 14, 2018). "FKA Twigs Is Reportedly Starring In Shia LaBeouf's New Film". Nylon. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  13. ^ McNary, Dave (May 24, 2018). "Maika Monroe Joins Shia LaBeouf's Drama 'Honey Boy'". Variety. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  14. ^ Bergeson, Samantha (2022-08-30). "Shia LaBeouf Disowns 'Honey Boy' Script He Wrote: I 'Vilified' Dad with 'F*cking Nonsense' Abuse Depiction". IndieWire. Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  15. ^ Debruge, Peter (November 28, 2018). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2019 Features Lineup". Variety. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (February 2, 2019). "Sundance: Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy' Lands at Amazon (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (May 9, 2019). "Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy' To Sweeten Up Awards Season". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 10, 2019). "How 'Doctor Sleep' Went Into A Coma At The B.O. With Dreary $14M+ Opening, Following Surprise $17M+ Attack By 'Midway' – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  19. ^ Brueggemann, Tom (November 17, 2019). "'Waves' Makes Box Office Splash as Amazon and Netflix Stay Quiet". IndieWire. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  20. ^ "Honey Boy (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  21. ^ "Honey Boy Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  22. ^ Dowd, A.A. (January 27, 2019). "Zac Efron Plays Ted Bundy, Shia LaBeouf Plays His Dad. What a Day for Former Teen Stars". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "'Once Upon a Time,' 'Portrait' top AP's 2019 best films list". AP NEWS. April 20, 2021.

External links[edit]