American Honey

Dir: Andrea Arnold, with Sasha Lane and Shia LaBoeuf

Despite its many longueurs and the fact that I could only distinguish about half of what was being said, I find that this expressionistic film is still in my head. It’s about a girl who abandons her rather desperate life to join a crew of door-to-door magazine sellers. There’s loads of drink, drugs, sex and camaraderie, and the camerawork embraces the litheness, energy and exuberance of youth. From the sere age of little twinges and afternoon naps, it all looked dreadfully depraved and rowdy (and not even particularly fun), but there was something about Star’s essential kindness and her contact with the natural world that won me over.

It seemed to be several films in one: a clear triptych of American society (rich and living well, oil-rich with nothing to do, and hopelessly dirt-poor). The odd, unmothered little girl who sang “I kill children” was straightforward horror. The love-at-first-sight  “romance” between Star and Jake was almost a (very explicit) Jackie story. The final scene, when Star submerges herself in a lake and then re-emerges – baptised? re-born? – had quasi-Christian overtones. The camera dwelt on ordinary details like raindrops on a car window in the same way that one’s unoccupied eyes do. The camerawork and soundtrack may reflect what young people experience while smoking whatever substance it is where you need to use a small oboe. Like I know.

How much was deliberate? Shining Star facing off against the jealous Crystal – hard with sharp edges? Crystal was such a hectoring managerial presence that she had forfeited much of the youthfulness of her underlings: she could just as easily have been played by a wizened old woman or a bloated, stubbly bloke. Except they might not have carried off the teensy-weensy bikini scene quite so well.

Vaguely interesting to compare it to the Belgian film, Rosetta.

(I’m on the train to London. The elderly Guardian-informed woman sitting across from me is referring to “teutonic plates” in California.)

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