Shia LaBeouf is working out his own issues in his latest oddity of a movie 

Shia LaBeouf buffs his crown as one of Hollywood’s trickiest mavericks (not that there are too many of those left) in his new close to home semi-autobiographical movie about damaged souls. He takes the lead role of James, a washed-up rodeo clown, former felon and full time fantasist, a character based on LaBeouf’s own wayward father.

This unsavoury figure, who looks like he’s just stepped off the set of Easy Rider, Is "managing" the career of his child actor son, 12-year-old Otis (a truly superb Noah Jupe), another parallel with LaBeouf’s former life as a child star who went on to blockbuster success and then rejected it all and entered the free fall that has fed his recent creative energies.

Father and son live in a clapped-out motel room eking out a living. Otis goes to work on a kids’ comedy movie every day as his father sinks into a twilight world, struggling to stay sober, making grand boasts, and flirting with his young neighbour (avant-garde musician FKA Twigs making her big screen debut).

He encourages his sensitive and creative son’s career with threats and psychological warfare and reveals himself to be a twitchy mess of jealously, rage and rampant egotism which infects everyone around him. You’ll spend most of the movie bracing yourself for the inevitable eruption of anger and violence.

Told in flashback from Otis’s current situation as a bad boy action hero (Lucas Hedges plays the adult Otis with a manic edge) who abuses alcohol and those around him in equal measure until he finally ends up in rehab and daily sessions with as his firm but fair counsellor. "I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex" he wryly remarks.

LaBeouf wrote the screenplay and - making her feature debut - director Alma Har'el combines gritty verité with surreal scenes on movie sets and sly observations on the vacuity of fame. Following the oddity of American Honey, LaBeouf is clearly going through a healing process and finding his voice with his recent work. He also reveals himself to be much, much more than the dunder-headed star of giant robot movies. You could call Honey Boy an act of contrition on his road to transformation.

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2