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Film / Honey Boy

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James: How do you think it feels to have my son paying me? How do you think that feels?
Otis: You wouldn't be here if I didn't pay you.

Honey Boy is a 2019 indie drama film directed by Alma Har'el. It follows the story of Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges), a problematic young actor in rehab, though the bulk of it is told in flashbacks that show Otis as a struggling child actor (Noah Jupe) living with his abusive, former rodeo clown father James (Shia LaBeouf).

The film largely acts as a warts-and-all account of LaBeouf's own troubled upbringing in everything but name, its script's very existence a result of LaBeouf writing it as a form of therapy in court-mandated rehab, where he discovered he was suffering from PTSD.

Otis is based on LaBeouf himself (down to select scenes of Otis' acting being heavily reminiscent of past works of his), and LaBeouf's character is based on his own father, with the film's title being his father's real childhood nickname for him. This marks his first feature writing credit, as well as Har'el's feature directorial debut.


Honey Boy premiered at Sundance early in the year before being picked up by Amazon Studios for distribution.

Tropes present:

  • Abusive Parents: Basically the subject of the film is the abuse Otis's father, James, put him through and how it still affects him ten years later.
  • Answer Cut: After his rehab counselor tells him that he has PTSD, Otis is taken aback and asks "From what?", after which the film cuts to its main title, and we have our first flashback into Otis' childhood.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Otis seems to make peace with his past and goes on to better himself..but it's pretty clear the scars of his father's abuse will continue to linger on him for a long time.
  • Broken Bird: Otis fits the bill, with most of the film exploring how he became to develop his Sour Outside, Sad Inside character.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Otis attempts to do this to his dad, but unfortunately, he caught him in a particularly bad mood. It leads to the memory that appears to hurt Otis the most.
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  • Karma Houdini: James. It's unknown what became of him following Otis becoming an actor, but considering the ending's final scene, it's implied he passed away before Otis could finally lay down all the trauma he inflicted on him.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Otis has developed one of these by the time he's grown up, as seen when he can't get his safety harness off or when he lashes out at the other rehab patients.
  • Hates Their Parent: Otis lives in fear of his father's outbursts, and by the end, it's clear that their relationship has deteriorated beyond repair.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Otis's neighbor, Shy Girl, with whom he develops a genuine bond.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The shy girl, Otis' neighbor, is a sex worker, but also spends time with Otis of her own free will. They even get intimate, which prompts Otis to offer to pay her before she leaves. Ouch.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Shy Girl is only ever called Shy girl.
  • Parents as People: Otis's dad is displayed in all his flawed, abusive glory.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": The film starts out with Otis giving one of these on the set of an action movie, which is presumably a nod to LaBeouf's famous penchant for them.
  • Roman à Clef: Shia LeBeouf based the story off of his own life experiences with his father. Otis stands in for LeBeouf and Otis's father, James, stands in for LeBeouf's father.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: By the time he's become a young adult and successful actor, Otis has developed a toxic lifestyle to deal with his trauma that ultimately leads him to court-mandated rehab.