American Honey is a drama road trip film about a young girl, Star (Sasha Lane), who joins a group of travelling magazine sellers as they travel across America trying to make money.
The film is really a coming of age tale for Star who leaves behind her younger siblings and deadbeat dad and joins the group on a free lifestyle of partying and travel. She learns to find her independence and gets caught up in a romance with top seller Jake (Shia LaBeouf) despite many of the warning signs against it. Whilst there isn’t much more to the story than that, plot isn’t so much what American Honey is about. Instead it’s an exploration of how the character of Star fits into the group and leaves behind her hard life at home.
Now when you consider that there isn’t a huge amount of story in American Honey the two and a half hour run time is certain going to put a lot of people off. And that’s fair enough, there are a lot of points at which the films feels bloated and scenes that stretch on too long. But for the most part the film is engaging enough for those who can truly get invested in Star’s journey. The fact that the film manages to feel both very stylised but also incredibly real, because of director Andrea Arnold’s use of a lot of handheld filming, really helps with drawing you in.
What is really incredible is that Sasha Lane was a completely new find by Arnold, this was her first ever acting role and she is absolutely fantastic. It is such an assured performance that it’s staggering that she hasn’t acted before. Shia LaBeouf is a very hit and miss actor, but the dynamic between Lane, himself, and Arielle Holmes, as their boss Krystal, is great. The rest of the previously unknown cast all do a good job and play off each other really well.
American Honey is not a film about anything particularly new. We’ve seen road trip movies where young people discover their independence many times before. And yet it still manages to feel fresh and interesting. Sure it’s too long and bloated at points, but Sasha Lane is so brilliant in her first film that’s it’s hard not too get drawn in despite not all that much actually happening.