Invigorating, haunting, and sweet, Andrea Arnold’s latest instalment American Honey is charged with an electric, youthful atmosphere incomparable to any other film. Arnold’s beautiful natural shots of the American plains, creatures in trees, and weatherly elements create a stunning piece of visual cinema. Juxtaposed against a soundtrack of thumping trap music, this makes for an amusing yet enthralling atmosphere.
It follows eighteen-year-old Star (Sasha Lane), a carefree youth trapped in an isolated Texan abode, tied down by a lecherous stepfather and an indifferent mother. In a chance encounter, she stumbles upon the enigmatic and infectious Jake (Shia LaBoeuf), who persuades her into joining a “mag crew,” a group of teenage stray-aways who party their way round the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions.
Firstly, Star is an unforgettable character. She is a character in transit, hardened from a tough life at the beginning of the film, progressing into a happier, more caring character at the end. Lane is excellent in her debut role; she conveys Star’s journey so well, drawing in the audience to root for her during her moments of excitement and joy, and invoking fear and anxiety in moments of sorrow, to the point where you genuinely root for Star, willing on her happiness.
Shia LaBoeuf, as one might expect, brilliantly rises to the part as her fiery lover, Jake. The rest of the cast are an absolute tour-de-force; consisting of a group of young unknown actors, they mesh together fantastically to create an ensemble of lost souls, who you care deeply for. Riley Keough is intimidating as the tribe’s cold leader, Krystal. All of the bizarre primal moments that take place within the group are also gripping to watch; in one scene, the two worst sellers of the week engage in an alcohol-fuelled fist-fight — both a terrifying and enthralling sight to watch.
Uplifting American Honey may be, but with Star’s reckless lifestyle comes the inevitable danger and threat that this life carries. There are several excruciating moments, one so uncomfortable that the audience can barely breathe, shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
It would seem that there is nothing that can be criticised about American Honey. With a running time of two hours forty-three minutes, this may be a tough watch for some to sit through, but for those who resonate with its unusual story this is a blessing rather than a curse. This is a must-see for fans of Andrea Arnold; keeping to the same themes in Red Road and Fish Tank, she explores young, disadvantaged women in cruel places, and their journeys through these challenging environments. Nevertheless, whether you are familiar with Andrea Arnold or not, American Honey is one to watch — a bittersweet, tender film that will stay in your mind long after the credits have rolled.