Tuesday, 25 October 2016

REVIEW - AMERICAN HONEY (ANDREA ARNOLD)


Andrea Arnold lets loose in American Honey, a bold diversion from a filmmaker whose rigid control has yielded such brilliant results in the past. Her empathy must transform into our tolerance in this meandering cultural portrait, and that's a process with which she has some difficulty. Capturing the ephemeral, vivid highs and the wretched lows of the prolonged procrastination of a generation abandoned by broader society is one thing, and it's one thing that Arnold and cinematographer Robbie Ryan do very well. Making it mean something, however, is another thing, and though Arnold makes her statements plainly and with unabashed honesty, American Honey spills forth from the screen as aimlessly as its characters journey through the arse-end of America, living hand-to-mouth with reckless glee. The spirit of camaraderie is joyous, the willingness to offend deliciously disarming, and Ryan's saturated colours, caught in his customary digital burnish, are vibrant and beautiful. But what of it? Intentionally bereft of structure or much sense of forward motion, American Honey swiftly becomes a tiresome experience, its characters increasingly enervating, its lack of direction increasingly frustrating. While Arnold knows what she wants to say, and indeed succeeds in saying it loud and clear, there's little enjoyment to be had in hearing her say it over and over for close to three hours. She lets her commitment to looseness deprive her style of the piercing rigour that once lent it such remarkable energy and impact, and lets American Honey suffer in turn.