Andrea Arnold’s US debut American Honey (after Red Road, Fish Tank and her artful adaptation of Wuthering Heights) is the antithesis of what we think of as mainstream commercial filmmaking in every way but one – at close to three hours it’s incredibly indulgent, to the point where any goodwill towards what she’s attempting starts to dissipate.
It’s incredibly indulgent, to the point where any goodwill towards what she’s attempting starts to dissipate.
Perhaps she’s attempting to challenge audiences who’ll sit through a three-hour blockbuster movie, but balk at doing the same for an art film with naturalistic performances and a plot that’s closer to our actual lives. The fact that she’s cast Transformers star Shia LaBeouf suggests that might be part of her MO. Sadly, that doesn’t make it a great movie. Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), an 18-year-old woman we first see dumpster diving for food to feed her younger siblings. When she happens across a group of feral travellers led by the charismatic Jake (LeBeouf), she’s presented with a chance for escape – one she impulsively takes and which leads her on an odyssey across the US selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door. What emerges is a sprawling coming-of-age film that deliberately tempers the romanticism of the landscape with the rawness of a life lived tethered to the bottom rung of the societal ladder. It’s as brilliant and compelling as it is maddening and repetitious.
By Alistair Harkness