Review: American Honey
Director: Andrea Arnold
By Sarah Stopforth
American Honey encapsulates the human spirit. It is a life inspiring film that is like a love letter to that spark you have when you’re young.
From British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, known for Fish Tank (2009) and Oscar winner for her short Wasp (2005), comes her first American-set film that won the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, as well as being in the running for the coveted Palme d’Or.
American Honey is shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, which is not often seen in the cinema but matches the beautiful documentary-style cinematography in this ‘on the road’ film.
From the start of the film, I was instantly captivated by the hypnotic presence of first-time-actor Sasha Lane, who plays the lead role of eighteen-year-old Star.
Within the first few minutes of the film, Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ “We Found Love” creeps into your ears with its thumping EDM beat, playing in a mid-western Wal-Mart, of all places. As a small crowd of youths begin to dance, Star locks eyes with Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a charismatic salesman sporting a terrible hairstyle but, nonetheless, enchanting. The lyrics of the hit-song repeat themselves over and over “We found love in a hopeless place…” setting the scene for these two characters and their intoxicating relationship, and the rest of the film’s brilliant soundscape.
Jake is the leader of this band of merry young people, who are traveling across mid-western America, in a van, selling magazine subscriptions. Jake answers to a “you’re so vain” Krystal (Riley Keough) who collects the cash and gives the orders. They live day by day; staying in motels, selling as many subscriptions as they can and partying at night – constantly on the move, not knowing where they’ll be tomorrow.
I can’t place my finger on what it is about this film that made it so appealing to me other than I am probably the target demographic. It has certain energy that captures a rarely seen face of a generation in America.
Most of the supporting characters are non-actors and a lot of their dialogue was improvised, which is a demonstration of Arnold’s superb direction. This band of misfits may not look like a book you’d want to read, but once you have, you feel like you’ve discovered something special.
LaBeouf and Lane feed off each other’s energy in the most beautiful way leading to performances that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
Robbie Ryan is a brilliant cinematographer, capturing the reality of these characters in the most poetic way. Star, shot from a low angle from inside a stolen Cadillac, casts the infinite blue sky above her, as the backdrop of boundless directions they can head in…
“Nothing’s sweeter than summertime and American Honey.”
American Honey is showing exclusively at Luna Cinema Leederville from November 3.