Andrea Arnold’s first US set feature that manages to make every moment count.
The best way to explain this movie comes from the character Jake (Shia LaBeouf) “We go door to door. We sell magazines. We explore, like, America. We party.” It’s living the American Dream. You follow young adults who seem to have nothing but at the same time they seem the happiest they could be.
American Honey (2016) begins with Star (Sasha Lane) scavenging chicken from a bin and throwing it down to two children she is looking after. She then see’s the crew for the first time who will take her on an enriching adventure and ends up being charmed by Jake (Shia LaBeouf’). Star is drawn to Jake after seeing him lead the rest of the gang in an impromptu dance routine in a supermarket as Rihanna’s “We Found Love” plays on the speakers.
One of the many perfect song choices that you’ll hear throughout, each song captures an essence of the film. From that moment Star is hooked. Andrea Arnold’s storytelling is based on observing, at first, you might be shocked by Stars actions. But you’ll understand from what you have seen that her life was already at a dead end and she needed to escape.
This begins the start of her journey. You’ll meet Krystal (Riley Keough), the boss of this group. She’s cold hearted, tough and is the one who collects the money, has a room to herself and has Jake tied up around her finger. The only requirement she asks of Star is “Got anybody who’s going to miss you?” (American Honey, Andrea Arnold 2016). Star then begins her tour across America.
The film features heavily of close ups on Star, to capture her reaction to the strange world around her.
Andrea’s cinematographer, Robbie Ryan, shoots in the squarer Academy ratio, which has been Arnold’s signature since Fish Tank, but his superb use of the 4×3 frame manages to make you embrace every part of this ride. The way camera shakes, focuses, everything it captures feels real. There are times where you can forget everything and fall into the film. The scenery and locations and the events of the film capture an essence of America that is both dark but beautiful.
Sasha Lane’s performance as Star is truly wonderful. She is both rude, strong but vulnerable and there is always this fear that people are going to take advantage of her. But she herself is also very protective of others, looking after kids and saving insects or animals.
This film can be taken in many ways. It’s a coming of age story, a film about a young girl who dreams of a better life or even it’s just the tale of a youth who are in revolt and want to spend their life on the road and party the time away. But most of all, it’s about how you see life.
Everyone struggles at times, everyone has it different but appreciate every little moment and it can still be beautiful. Much like the whole journey throughout American Honey. Every little moment captures beauty.
I was lucky enough to attend this screening, thanks to BIFA (British Independent Film Award). Each month they are hosting a screening of award-winning independent films.