Ever since I can remember, there’s been bits and pieces of my life that have been missing. Flashes here and there – echoes of moments I can’t recall – but I’ve always known there’s something missing. I love the woman who raised me. She’s funny and kind, and even at 44 years old, sees the world with a sense of optimism and wonder that I at 21, find unfathomable. But there are parts of my life that have disappeared – parts of me I’ll never get back, and I don’t think I can ever forgive her for that.
I’m 21, and I feel like I’m just starting to figure out who I am. While home was rocky, I found solace in my childhood friends. I was loud and filled with love around them – my true self. But entering university, I went from a vibrant child, to a neurotic and angry adult in the sharp span of 3 years. I felt lost and uncertain. 2019 cinema has in a way, helped me look at parts of myself that I’m still too afraid to fully delve into. From space epics to a story about a demonic clown, I have felt held by the movies that have graced the screen in the past year. But, nothing could have prepared me for Honey Boy.
Honey Boy tells the story of Otis (Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges), and his strained relationship with his father James (Shia LaBeouf). The film is paralleled with LaBeouf’s own relationship with his father when he was a young child entering the entertainment industry. Honey Boy flashes back between Otis as a child, and as a recovering adult in rehab. These cuts are so effortless, and display just what it feels like to delve into your own childhood memories. There are missing pieces, pieces that don’t sit quite right, and then there are dreams that you know deep down are not reality. It takes a certain amount of strength to delve back into your memories and essentially go back in time, to revisit a part of yourself that you did not want to confront.
I feel completely dismantled by Honey Boy. The film takes an in depth look at generational trauma, but does so in such a delicate way that the path to the end feels like a path to catharsis. I’ve been struggling lately: waking up from nightmares and suffering from stress induced migraines, but Honey Boy has helped ease my soul. It displays the art of forgiveness – but not forgetting – because memory is one of the few things we have agency over. Keeping those memories and putting them out into the world is the biggest “Fuck You,” imaginable. In a dream sequence towards the end of the film, Otis stares at his father and says “I’m gonna make a movie about you.” The amount of dedication it took for Shia LaBeouf to not only write this film, but play his father – a man who caused him so much pain – in a way that isn’t cruel, takes an immense amount of bravery.
It takes courage to acknowledge that your parents are people too: they have lives of their own and traumas they had to endure before they brought you into this world. It takes even more courage to forgive them for that, but I’ve never been a very forgiving person. I still remember people who cut me in line in elementary school and get bitter about it. But, I’ve always had plenty of love in my heart. I can’t help but love the woman who raised me, even though she’s caused me so much pain. But I don’t think I can ever forgive her. I’m not brave enough for forgiveness.
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with the ghost of fingers squeezing around my neck. I wear headphones constantly, because loud noises ignite a panic inside me. Sometimes I get so angry, it feels all encompassing, and I don’t know what to do with it. At some points it feels like anger is the only thing keeping me alive. As a 21 year old who is still in recovery, I don’t think I’m capable of the courage that was displayed in the making of Honey Boy. I admire it and it truly means the world to me, but I don’t think I can do it. At least, not yet. I pray I might get to the point of forgiveness some day.