This autobiographical meditation on trauma, fame and rehab, written by actor Shia LaBeouf and directed by documentarian Alma Har’el, is surprisingly gentle and engaging.
Conceived when LaBeouf was in forced rehab after one too many arrests for intoxication, it intertwines the story of 12-year-old Otis (Noah Jupe) as he forges a career in acting with his 22-year-old self (Lucas Hedges) as he enters rehab. The villain and cause of Otis’s addictions and PTSD is his father James (LaBeouf).
James is paid to be Otis’s chaperone so that he can work on films but we soon see that his parenting skills are not great. Living out of a cheap motel, telling tall tales, demeaning his son, pocketing his money – we can see the anger and resentment that seethes beneath the surface. He is not a two-dimensional villain though, and like 12-year-old Otis, we are not always sure how to feel about him. We can see how caught Otis is in loving someone who causes him pain and then his reluctance to let go of the rage that fuels him as an adult.
It’s a quiet and lyrical film, without a lot of action but with well-drawn characters. FKA Twigs is excellent as fellow motel dweller Shy Girl and it was delightful to see Laura San Giacomo again. Hedges and Jupe are convincing and LaBeouf does a great job at playing his father. Reportedly they have not spoken for seven years and you can see why.
Overall, this is an interesting story, well told. Perhaps it is LaBeouf trying to rationalise his bad behaviour but he does it in a way that resonates.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.