American Honey is a drama road film directed by Andrea Arnold which stars Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf in leading roles. Lane plays the character of Star, an impoverished teenager who joins a group of misfits travelling across the United States selling magazines by any means necessary in order to survive and live. LaBeouf plays Jake, who is Lane’s eccentric, cocky mentor and love interest.

My Knowledge and Expectation of American Honey

This was a film which had gained quite a bit of buzz coming out of Cannes and Toronto Film Festival. Indeed, it won Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize, with particular praise going towards Sasha Lane’s performance in the film. Moreover, film critics/pundits whose views I highly respect and admire found American Honey to be a very pleasant experience. As such, I was keen on seeing this film.

Sasha and Shia in American Honey on top of a Van

My Views on American Honey

On the whole, I found the film to be weird but enjoyable in parts. Certainly, Lane and LaBeouf are very charismatic and captivating in the film. Remarkably, this is Lane’s debut in a film although you would never suspect that while you’re watching American Honey as her performance is that impressive and believable. If she can keep up this standard of acting then she has a very promising career in front of her. Her relationship with LaBeouf was one of the most engrossing in the film.

Still, where American Honey really shines is with its use of music which is an intrinsic part of the story-telling. The soundtrack has songs from a great variety of genres and this gives the film character, especially when it is used when the group is together.  In fact, one scene in American Honey strongly reminded me of the scene in Almost Famous where the band Stillwater sing along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’. It was my favourite scene of that film and the way it was echoed in American Honey is fantastic, especially as it showed the camaraderie within the group.

Indeed, the best parts of American Honey where when the whole crew were together and sharing stories and experiences with each other. It helped us form a bond with them and I just wish that the film focused more on the crew rather than constantly shifting to other elements of the film which, for me, held it back from reaching its full potential.

Teenagers in American Honey

Truthfully, American Honey has a very loose flow which works for a while but this leads the film to become confused in tone.  Ultimately, this meant that the film took risks with its story and not all of them paid off. There were some unnecessary parts in American Honey which could have been cut out to make the story tighter and keep the tone consistent. Moreover, it would have reduced the running time which, for a film like this, is too long and expects a lot of patience from its audience.

Because of this, some will find this film to be a bit boring and plodding. However, there are enough enjoyable elements and ideas within the film to make this experience worthwhile. American Honey is not for everyone but you can find elements in the film that will keep you engaged. Whether it be the music, the performances, the interactions between the group or perhaps the harsh look at American life for the underprivileged, you can find a lot of good things within American Honey which ultimately means that the viewing experience will be rewarding at its best and muddled at its worst.

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