REVIEW: American Honey (2016) by Mark Putley

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Anticipation:     2.5/5   Apart from a brief rundown from a knowledgeable cinema usher, I had heard and read very little about American Honey. The last ‘coming-of-age’ film I saw must’ve been The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) about a year after it was released onto DVD. Coupling curiosity with the fact that American Honey was well recommended in-house, I decided to take a look with mediocre expectations.

Final Verdict:     4/5     Even though American Honey may feel a little long, you’ll be delighted by standout performances from Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf, as well as Andrea Arnold‘s youth oriented direction. The film is very much worth your time, and a trip to the cinema is certainly recommended.

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American Honey is the story of Star (Sasha Lane), a teenager from an impoverished background who finds herself traveling across America’s Midwest with a motley magazine sales crew.

American Honey certainly has a story to tell, it explores the struggling youth of America with unfiltered honesty. Sasha Lane presents raw talent as she makes a performance of someone who has been film acting for years, which makes this debut for her even more astounding. Shia LaBeouf plays Jake, with charm and charisma he becomes the crew’s most successful magazine salesman. The film relies on an improvised script and a young talented cast to drive the narrative forward, effectively focusing on the troubles of youth, poverty, sex and drugs. Lane and LaBeouf’s on screen chemistry is palpable as their characters develop a mutual attraction to one another. Intimate scenes are presented with real and almost embarrassingly raw detail, so not one to watch with the parents.

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With considerable interest, I started to wonder ‘what makes this film different yet somewhat familiar?’, I couldn’t help but smile when it dawned on me. The film is shot in the academy ratio of 1.37, giving the screen a squarer frame, reminding me of the eye pleasing filters of Instagram, which is an appropriate and ingenious cinematic ploy to give the film an extra nod towards youth. The cinematography is fantastic so it’s unfortunate that the major pitfall in this film is in the editing, inasmuch that there isn’t any.  At almost 3 hours in length, you find yourself worrying whether you’ve put enough money in the parking meter. The semi-ad-libbed script is a huge credit to the film, however, couple that with the running time it may make you wish for a conclusion about 30 minutes before it comes.

However, American Honey is far from avoidable. If you aren’t pressed for time, then you’ll be rewarded with a film that shines a bright light on some really important themes, and it does so with wonderful direction.

What did you think of American Honey? Sound off in the comment section below!

American Honey Trailer

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