english director andrea arnolds fourth feature is just as bold and striking as her previous work (red road, fish tank, wuthering heights); a thrillingly alive road odyssey/character study of discarded american youth; vibrant, poetic, erotic, tragic funny, scary, indulgent, messy, ugly and beautiful in equal measure.
american honey is ostensibly the story of star (debutante Sasha Lane), a teenage girl trapped in a deadend home life somewhere on the fringes of working class america. she stumbles upon a ragtag group of lost boys and girls led by the charismatic, ponytailed Jake (Shia La Boeuf) whom she locks eyes with and offers her the chance to escape her impoverished, abusive existence and join his motley crew in their battered volkswagen selling magazine subscriptions to rich neighbourhoods for cash. she seizes the opportunity and throws herself into a headlong journey of self discovery that is both epic and intimate in scope.
arnold and cinematographer robbie ryan shoot the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio, normally reserved for television and still photography. this serves to emphasize Star’s point of view. we see the world through this defiant young woman’s eyes as she chooses to experience it. immediate, raw, surreal and fascinating with convincing performances from a cast of first-timers and professionals, particularly Lane and La Boeuf whose intense chemistry powers the film forward, sideways and every other way as it careens to a perfect (in)conclusion.