Honey Boy (2019) is a low budget character-based story. It’s what used to be called an ‘indie movie’, produced outside of the Hollywood studio system. It follows he tropes of literary fiction and art films (an expression of the protagonists experience rather than a plot-driven story).
In this case, Honey Boy was released by Amazon Studios. So, while it’s technically outside the Hollywood studio system it’s the product of a large corporation. The film had a limited release in cinemas, but it’s ultimately destined to end up on Amazon Prime Video. It cost $3.5 million to produce and it recouped $3.3 million. This is before DVD and streaming sales, plus the ‘cost’ of adding it to Prime Video. So, I’m guessing although it wasn’t a runaway success, it can be viewed as a successful film.
The problem with Honey Boy is that it flits between two stories. I came away without feeling like either of of the stories had been satisfactorily explored or resolved.
The unlikable father is a problematic figure. But we never experience how he became to be that unlikeable person. The real story about him has already occurred. This is the aftermath.
The boy’s story feels like the moment before the story. The most dramatic part of the story also occurs outside of the film’s scope. Because of this, neither part of the film feels satisfying. And a third character, the boys mother, doesn’t even feature in the film (except, briefly, in a phone call, and we don’t even see her).
It’s not that this is confusing, it’s just that it doesn’t feel dramatically satisfying.
The desire for realism, to recapture what happened, and the self-therapy of autobiography — cathartic fiction — in films like Honey Boy and, The Souvenir (2019) can get in the way of the story.
I get it — but it doesn’t make for a satisfying viewing experience because the story is centred on the storyteller’s needs. It represents their experience rather than the satisfaction of pure fiction.