top of page
  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

Honey Boy and How We Cope With Generational Trauma

Ever since I watched Alma Har'el's 2019 film Honey Boy for the first time----in my dorm, at school, during a depressive episode----I have been referring to it is the most cathartic film I've ever seen. Fifteen year old Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, and writer/star Shia Lebouf give extremely raw and real performances that capture, in an essence, people learning to deal with trauma inherited from their parents.

The story between young Otis (played by Jupe) and his father James (played by Lebouf) is one about how parents' actions during childhood shapes who the child becomes, and it tackles the even harder concept of understanding why those who take care of us behave in certain ways and forgiving them for that. I feel like this is something every child has to deal with to varying degrees and I love the film for delving into such a difficult task.

Having someone you admire and seek approval from make fun of you, yell at you, hit you. The conflict going on in Otis' head as he tries to make sense of the way his father treats him and tries to register any of it as love is heartbreaking. Then learning later in the film James only behaves that way because it's how his mother treated him, and seeing Otis years later behaving that way after going through things in his formative years...the cycle of abuse continues.

I see myself in Otis. I know, my life isn't exactly the same, but I feel that same feeling of sometimes having to grow up fast because of traumatic experiences.I feel like that's why Otis and me and so many others turn to creative outlets like acting for relief.

"The only thing my father ever gave me of any value is pain, and you wanna take that away?"

The scene of twenty-two year old Otis breaking down in his therapists office resonates with me in ways I didn't know were possible. Because although I've gotten much better at expressing myself healthily, I still bottle a ton up and instead of pouring out my feelings, I use my emotions for my work. I think us actors often use their pain to give their characters more depth instead of really working through problems. The most real performances are seen as the most believable right? But sometimes I feel like we can forget how detrimental that mindset is to us as human beings and Honey Boy brings that concept to the forefront. So watching Otis confront these repressed emotions head on reciting a script he had to write for therapy, or watching him scream as loud as he can in the middle of a forest is such a freeing experience. Seeing him shed all that pain and anger he'd let build for years, we felt the same relief he did. And it makes me think about the times I've been hurt and the scars I have from friends and family, wounds I never let heal completely. It makes me want to find some catharsis too.

Honestly, I feel like Honey Boy doesn't necessarily have a message or a lesson to be learned. I think it is an unbelievably touching and emotional story that just needed to be told. It's a story of struggle and understanding. A story, I believe, about recognizing flaws in people, specifically parents, and understanding why they do what they do; and if you love them, it's about ultimately forgiving them. And as we watch this tumultuous relationship between a father and son unravel, and see the affect it has years later, the love that the two share at the end of the film always brings me to tears without fail. And for whatever reason, after they have an emotional embrace, I can't help but sob and sob as James tells Otis,

"Make me look good Honey Boy."

52 views1 comment

1 Comment

Apr 01, 2020

Thank you for sharing a thoughtful reflection on something that affects us all; getting past the emotional baggage we carry that we inherit from our parents. 👍🏽

bottom of page