American Honey is a beautiful, sun-drenched whirlwhind of a youthful road movie, directed by Andrea Arnold. It stars newcomer Sasha Lane – who Arnolds spotted in Florida on her spring break – as Star, a Texan girl with responsibility weighing on her shoulders who is lured into the lifestyle of travelling sales by Jake, played by Shia LaBeouf.
There’s a tangible chemistry between Lane and LaBeouf from the outset, and we follow them through the roads of America as they try to earn themselves some money. There’s so much going on in this film – it’s a classic road movie tinged with epic romance, as well as something to say about poverty and class and the American dream. Plot twists aren’t what American Honey is going for; it’s more a study of a group of people travelling together, how they bond, fight, love and betray, and how one lost girl finds a way to fit in with them.
With fleeting views of American backroads seen through the window of a minivan, there’s a constant energy to this film that grips you. The cinematography here is undeniably beautiful – everything feels sunny and dirty and grimy and smoke filled, we watch the film in small screen rather than widescreen, and there’s a sunset hue to key emotional moments that makes the look of the movie incredibly visually appealing and hard to forget.
The character studies in American Honey often surprise you – expectations of male characters are often subverted, and the whole film seems to be driven by erratic and emotional actions of the protagonists, adding to the heady youthful feel. Shia LaBeouf is a great casting choice – he’s charming and clever and tinged with madness, and you’re never quite sure what he’s going to do next. Riley Keough is also strong as the menacing boss Crystal, who doesn’t hesitate to put Star in her place and hit her where it hurts.
But the real star? Star herself. Sasha Lane is a total newcomer to the world of cinema but she is completely bewitching in this film. Her beauty and striking look set her apart from the rest and she has this understated way of playing anger and sadness and naivety that makes her feel so, so real.
The soundtrack is also a key element of the movie, with many scenes using music to bring the characters together and showase the dynamic of the group – and we love the way Arnold constructs a kind of non-ending to the film, giving the audience the sense that Star has been reborn.
American Honey is an emotional, beautiful triumph that shows real vision from the director and a promising real life Star in Sasha Lane. I can’t wait to see what comes next from both of them.
Buy ‘American Honey’ on DVD here, and sneak a peek with the trailer below.