As a general rule, I would not wish to spend nearly three hours in a mini-van with young people who turn up the music real loud. As a general rule, being the age I am, I would go to any lengths to avoid such an experience. But American Honey is a film by Andrea Arnold and even though it does require you to spend nearly three hours in a min-van with young people who turn up the music real loud, you will not, in fact, regret it. Or at least not regret it entirely. A bit, perhaps, but you’ll get a good two hours regret-free.
This is the first American film by Arnold, the British director who made Wasp and Red Road and Fish Tank — three brilliant films in the social-realist tradition, one of which happens to be among my favourite films of all time. (Clue: Red Road.) Here, our protagonist is 18-year-old Star (Sasha Lane) who we first meet rooting around in a dumpster for food. She finds a chicken in plastic wrapping which she hands to the little boy and girl who seem to be in her charge. (To show how boring and old I am, my first thought was: I hope that chicken is fresh-ish or they are all going to get so sick.) We aren’t awarded a back story as such. We know only that she lives in a trailer with an adult man (her dad? her stepdad?) who may be molesting her, and that when she decides to hit the road she dumps the two kids back with their mother who may also be her mother (or older sister?).
She hotfoots it because she has met Jake in a supermarket car park. Jake is Shia LaBeouf with a single rat’s tail of a plait running down his back, but neither fact appears to put her off.