Director: Andrea Arnold
Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough
A teenage girl with nothing to lose joins a traveling magazine sales crew, and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love as she criss-crosses the Midwest with a band of misfits. (Source: IMDb)
I’m a real sucker for a good coming of age, road trip movie, and despite the fact I described the trailer for American Honey as one which screams “I’M AN INDIE FILM”, I was looking forward to checking this one out.
Andrea Arnold, with one of her previous movies, Fish Tank, proved to have a keen eye for intimately told stories, particularly ones told from a strong female perspective. American Honey is no different, and it follows main character Star (Sasha Lane) through the entirety of it’s slightly weighty 2 hour 43 minute runtime!
Speaking of Lane, in her first feature film, she completely embodies her character and is a definite Star on the rise! For a film with such an intimate character study, the audience has to be on board with the lead from the start, and Lane exudes a natural energy which makes her a really captivating screen presence. She strikes the balance of feistiness and vulnerability perfectly, and her performance is completely what carries this film.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say, Shia LaBeouf is great in this film. No really! There’s a darker edge to his character which he demonstrates perfectly, and his and Lane’s onscreen chemistry is electric. Again, this central relationship has to work, and LaBeouf genuinely does a great job. I only hope this leads to him taking more roles like this one, and that he stops making godawful Transformer movies!
Shooting in her preferred 4:3 aspect ration, Arnold creates a picture perfect Polaroid snapshot of teenage Americana. Drenched in a perma-sun-kissed Instagram style filter, the imagery is evocative and beautifully shot. It’s a film which throws you into a moment or a feeling rather than a conventional narrative, and it really shouldn’t work, but it’s also hard not to be swept away in the free-flowing, sprawling and vast storyline.
It’s a movie which feels effortlessly cool, and the soundtrack suits this perfectly. The music isn’t to my tastes and it won’t be one I listen to in isolation of the movie, but it absolutely fits the tone and feeling of the movie. As most of the music in the film is diegetic, it is not only providing the soundtrack for the movie, but the soundtrack for the characters, their literal and metaphorical journeys on the road and into adulthood.
The runtime is unquestionably a little on the long side, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check my watch a few times. However, the meandering nature of the storyline is kind of the point; it’s a free-spirited nomad of a film, which lacks a little on purpose and drive but makes up for it in energy and enthusiasm.
As the film encapsulates a feeling and a moment so well, it also feels like a film which won’t warrant repeated viewings, which is a real shame.
I saw this movie and you should too. It’s long, sure, and it isn’t a movie I could see myself watching again, but there’s something weirdly magical about this film, which makes it worth a watch. It’s gorgeous to look at, evocative and powerfully liberating in places. Sasha Lane’s performance is a joy to watch, and boy is it good to watch Shia LaBeouf in a film which didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon! American Honey has been picking up some festival buzz, and it could be a bit of an underdog pick around awards season as well. Definitely worth a watch!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a totally misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!