Life for some people can be pretty freaking traumatic. In most of those cases, the trauma is inflicted by the person, in theory, you would least expect it to come from. Unfortunately for lots of people, their parents are the conduit to emotional trauma that lasts a lifetime. That is what this film is about. It isn’t about passing blame. It is about how the effects of bad parenting resonates with what people do as adults.
The relationship that is displayed on screen between Otis and his father is broken by so many rules of parental boundaries that should be established. It is clear that the dynamics of the relationship are eschewed. Examples of this are when his father James gives him cigarettes to smoke, Otis being the go-between during calls involving his parents, and James’ reliance on Otis income to financially exist. To be clear this is a work of fiction. It may be based on certain aspects of his relationship with his father. However, I wouldn’t look at it as a direct and accurate representation of his father and their relationship. The characters in the film are like so many families. They are struggling to survive in a world where a long history of substance, physical, and emotional abuse is as much a part of everyday life just as starting your day with a cup of coffee.
The adult Otis has all the signs of a person dealing with PTSD. When it is mentioned to him. He automatically dismisses it. It is understandable. No matter what a person goes through. The last thing that they want to accept is that their parental figures not only suck but damaged them. And even when that is understood. What do you do? Do you forgive and heal? Do you embrace what you can from them or cut them off? These are the changes in a relationship where boundaries mess up a kid that one day becomes an adult.
It takes the prospect of a lot of time in jail for the adult Otis to get an opportunity to address his issues. Naturally, he resists in the beginning of his therapy. As time passes he does come to the realization of what his experiences as a young actor being raised by his father while living in a motel/brothel has impacted him.
The film explores some of these issues in great detail and others in vague manners. No matter what it was clear to see the adult Otis was damaged from these experiences. The scene when he is stressed by the sound of himself urinating is heartbreaking. Adult Otis endured a great deal and he constantly has triggers that put him in a place of distress. It is fun to watch. Especially due to the fact this film can and will hit home with so many of the viewers’ personal history.
The relationship between the young Otis and the sex worker is also extremely fraught with danger. Is she a mother figure or is she something even more insidious? It is not spelled out. I found that interesting. Because just as the film presented James in the most harmful manner. No matter if his intentions were not to be harmful. The relationship between young Otis and the sex worker is played down. Possibly even romanticized. Even the environment was toned down from what living in that environment must have actually been like. I couldn’t understand that. Except for the care and feelings of care towards her made Shia greatly tone that aspect down. It was just puzzling. I mean young Otis smoked cigarettes, weed, and bankrolled his father’s existence. His father James was shown to be a substance abuser, jealous of his son’s success, a sex offender, and physical abuser of young Otis. But he didn’t paint to relationship between young Otis and the sex worker implicitly negative. Hell, there never was any indication of a john. I don’t know. It just was puzzling as hell. Especially when you consider those factors played a role in how Otis turned out as an adult.
Honey Boy a very interesting and impactful film. It is one of the most relevant and impactful films of the year. It is more a discussion that something created to entertain. It is worth a viewing. It is a conversation starter. There is not a book on how to raise a child. And because of that. It is easy to create an emotionally damaged adult. Even with all the negative. There still are a glimpses of the intense love Otis has for his father. I found that to be beautiful. James was not perfect. He damaged Otis. But this film is a lot of things. But the biggest thing it is. A love letter to his dad. That’s what makes this film beautiful to me. Think the line where an adult Otis says “The only thing of value my father gave me was pain, and you wanna take that away?” Sums up everything about this film in that one line. Amazing film.
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