American Honey – A Review By Gadi Elkon

Writer/Director Andrea Arnold taps into the youth culture with her devious and captivating film, American Honey.  A24 continues to back bold inventive talents like Arnold who has made a teen film that is nearly 3 hours long.  Is American Honey worth your time and money?  Click through for Gadi Elkon's review of the film.

Native Texan Sasha Lane commands your attention in this powerful introduction.  The young talent picked from normal life in Frisco, Tx is in nearly every moment of the 2 hours and 40 plus minutes of American Honey.  She owns the film and it's her presence that keeps you captivated.  Her innocence, her arrogance and her angry all become pivotal parts of our story.  Not necessarily a coming-of-age tale but more a rude enlightenment that identifies the lost nature of the modern youth.  Sasha's character Star completely lives up to her name.  The film is worth your attention simply for it's young star talent, Sasha Lane.

The dirty and violent culture of this nomadic group of children harps back to films like KIDS.  But rather then revolve around an act of utter adulthood this group of kids battles together.  The rebel youth may fight and fuck each other, but they also are forever connected.  Andrea Arnold's story is an honest and open take on it's subjects.  We see their flaws on the surface and are forced to dig deeper to understand the sad state of this group.  In the end, the constant struggle to survive becomes the focus and animalistic theme that takes over the movie.  As we see the kids devolve into wild animals we continue to see the beauty of the nature surrounding them.  These kids may appear the dangerous animals ruining our America, but are really the saving grace…possibly.  Arnold's story doesn't pass judgment it only allows the harsh voices to be heard.  On the opposite cinematic take is the way we constantly see the mundane but beautiful landscape of middle America.  Nature engulfs their world even if they are oblivious to it's appeal.  Only Star seems to notice all the beauty around her.

Optimism through anarchy seems to be a unique lesson from American Honey.  America is a young vibrant loud country that has the sweetness of Honey, but not the time to cultivate it to make something special.  Instead these traveling children remain childlike throughout the film and that naivety is paramount.  With out sympathy for these kids you're doomed to allow them to fail.  The interactions of the adults with these children is the real lesson making points.  Are the adults actually helpful or do they hinder the youth?  Who are the real bad guys, Riley Kerough's powerful lead bitch or the adults who surround the kids lives.  Star's sexually and physically abusive "dad" or the gentlemen cowboys who seem slightly to enamored with her young beauty.  Or is her love interest, Shia Labeouf's intriguing Jake, the real evil figure?  The film allows for sexuality, intimacy and youthful love to be believable elements rather than shocking plot devices.  Jake and Star's connection isn't exploited by Andrea Arnold, rather their back and forth nature seems fully real.  Many times in the film you start to believe these characters are real.  Andrea Arnold has made one of the year's best films.  A thought provoking masterpiece that begs for more communication between our youth and the adults that live with them.  Don't let the run time spook you, American Honey is worth every second of powerful screen time.





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