Features and Columns

How to Read ‘Honey Boy’ as an Act of Forgiveness

Here’s a video essay on why ‘Honey Boy’ operates on empathy.
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By  · Published on June 18th, 2020

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Shia LaBeouf describes the experience of making Honey Boy with the same phrase that defined his experience in rehab: the way in is through. For LaBeouf, there is very little difference between Honey Boy and therapy. After being arrested for public intoxication in Georgia, where he was shooting The Peanut Butter Falcon, LaBeouf attended a court-ordered 10-week rehab program. He was diagnosed with PTSD and during stream-of-consciousness writing exercises, the script for Honey Boy began to take shape. The film began shooting two weeks after LaBeouf was released from rehab.

Honey Boy is a lightly fictionalized account of LaBeouf’s relationship to his father during the time he and his dad lived in a seedy motel while the young actor starred on the Disney Channel sitcom Even Stevens. In the film, LaBoeuf’s father is played by Shia himself. As the video essay below suggests, LaBeouf’s decision to look through his dad’s eyes at one of the darkest periods of his own childhood is an incredible act of compassion.

Honey Boy is a film about a man trying to make sense of his own life by extending honesty and empathy to his family, to his audience, and to himself. It is an attempt to find peace through recognition. And inasmuch, it is a rare film where the act of creation and the final product are equally remarkable.

You can watch “Honey Boy: Shi LaBeouf’s Act of Forgiveness” here:

Who made this?

Frames of Empathy has been releasing video essays over the last year. You can follow them on YouTube here.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.