‘American Honey’ Review – Leaves a sweet taste

‘American Honey’ Review – Leaves a sweet taste

 

With a runtime of nearly three hours, a boxy 4:3 ratio and a Cannes Grand Jury Award American Honey sounds like an indulgent arthouse cliché. Except Andrea Arnold’s film is anything but, instead it’s a visceral experience captivating the freedom and fear that comes with being young, lost and yearning for escape.

The film follows Star who, upon realising no one will miss her, joins a matriarchal ‘mag crew’ that travels across the Midwest in a van full of weed and rap music. The group peddle magazine subscriptions but it is unclear to what extent the business is a scam. Described to Star as a ‘game’ the teenagers seem to be selling self-righteousness by using the guise of ‘helping impoverished youth’. The theme of morality is thread throughout the film as Star tries to establish where her values lie. Newcomer Sasha Lane excels in the lead role and Shia LaBeouf’s performance is similarly impressive.

Directionless plot can often prove frustrating yet American Honey’s astounding visuals and hypnotic soundtrack outweigh any narrative hiccups.

The plot feels confused in places but this is likely a conscious decision from Arnold as it reflects the displacement of her characters. Directionless plot can often prove frustrating yet American Honey’s astounding visuals and hypnotic soundtrack outweigh any narrative hiccups. The aforementioned 4:3 aspect ratio has proved popular recently with films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mommy utilising ratio to switch between time periods and moods respectively. Arnold’s use of the Academy ratio, combined with her handheld style of shooting, allows for intense intimacy within an expansive landscape.

Arnold’s film doesn’t shy away from the realities of Star’s environment and the dangers that surround her. Yet American Honey’s euphoric radiance signals light on the horizon in a fresh reworking of the American Dream.

 

As Star travels from state to state we become privy to a diverse portrait of class in an Americana landscape littered with confederate flags. Arnold’s film doesn’t shy away from the realities of Star’s environment and the dangers that surround her. Yet American Honey’s euphoric radiance signals light on the horizon in a fresh reworking of the American Dream.

Molly Hewitt

Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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