British director Arnold's US-set film is bold, spellbinding experience
Andrea Arnold, the British director behind acclaimed independent dramas Red Road, Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights, returns with her first States-set drama American Honey.
It’s a mature, dreamy, utterly seductive take on that nation’s time-honoured road movie. Poverty stricken Star (Sasha Lane) leaves behind an abusive relationship to become part of a free-spirited travelling sales team, offloading magazine subscriptions on wealthy families under the leadership of shady Texan ‘honey’ Krystal (Riley Keough).
American Honey gives us very little in terms of plot. Instead, the film’s truth emerges from a handful of finely drawn encounters. Star’s conversation with a lonely truck driver poignantly captures how even the most basic human dreams can seem impossible for the most marginalised. Arnold’s filmmaking is saturated with respect for impoverished communities and this naturally translates to the US.
Top salesman, Jake (a perfectly cast Shia LaBeouf), concocts a string of lies to close deals with these affluent homeowners. Star prefers building genuine human connections. Between the lines, Arnold provides us with an intelligent exploration of ‘sex sells’, capturing the subtle body language of consumer and seller. The group’s free-spiritedness is seductive, yet it’s tempered by Star’s grasp of the responsibilities we have to each other.
American Honey’s heady soundtrack that spans, pop, hip-hop and country, along with its vivid, naturalistic camera work and square screen, deliver a bold and spellbinding experience. Within this, the fierce story about human relationships, sexuality and poverty is one of the year’s best.
American Honey is showing at Broadway Nottingham until 27 October. Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights is now available on Netflix.