In her first America-set feature American Honey, Andrea Arnold paints the stateside landscape as a soul dying at the end of capitalism’s food chain. It’s fitting that the film is a road movie to nowhere, showcasing our current youth as looking for meaning in something, anything. But the film (even with its nearly three hour length) is anything but lethargic in its malaise, finding breathtakingly alive moments and the idiosyncratic in the sub-average. American Honey captures the feeling of being lost at sea, but the film is anything but.
In the searching face of newcomer Sasha Lane as Star, America’s optimistic youthful heart is shown as more conflicted than any obvious metaphor could convey. We find her nonchalantly digging through a dumpster for food with her younger half-siblings, only to go home to a predatory father figure and absentee mother – the actual parentage and family unit being of Arnold’s many instances of vagueness becoming hyper-specific and illuminating about this view of rural poverty. When Star sees Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and his rowdy crew making a scene in K-Mart, her longing is ignited to the appropriately hopeful but faded sound of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” on the loudspeaker.