Shia LaBeouf and newcomer Sasha Lane star in this euphoric road movie from Andrea Arnold
Picture the scene. Calvin Harris and Rhianna’s We Found Love blares over a tannoy; Shia LaBeouf jumps up on to a checkout counter before he is escorted out by security; newcomer Sasha Lane gazes on adoringly from afar. The atmosphere, despite the drab surroundings of a dingy Walmart, is immediately euphoric.
American Honey is Andrea Arnold’s first film in the US, and the result is a sensual, rapturous road trip that captivates from start to finish. Following on from her brooding and stripped bare take on Wuthering Heights, this latest feature couldn't be more of a contrast. Echoing aspects of her earlier Fish Tank, American Honey is a giddy breath of fresh air that, from the opening scenes, pops with life and the glow of youthful love on the road in the American Midwest.
Lane plays Star, who falls for Jake (LaBeouf), a travelling salesman who hires her to join a band of door-to-door magazine touts. There are many scenes capturing this rag-tag troop in their van, listening to Juicy J, Big Sean and Wale while smoking, chatting and making the best of what little they have. Their lives are all about the hustle, making it through each day as it comes. They can't afford to waste time on dreams.
The narrative is loose, at times rambling, but it doesn’t matter, even if the film does clock in at nearly three hours. Once you're on the ride, you drink in the characters, with the resulting effect similar to that of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood or Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood. It's a film that makes you hope there's more to come from Lane, who makes a lasting impression with her debut performance. American Honey also provided LaBeouf’s career-best performance. Together they make for an entrancing duo in a film that shows that love appears in even the most hopeless of places.