Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’ve been a mess this past few days. Feeling lost without a sense of direction, without a purpose. I’ve been moving house and right now, I have no money and no job. I’d be lying if I said feeling like this was out of the ordinary for me. I get stressed, which leads to me feeling a sense of inadequacy compared to others, which in turn leads me to isolate myself. I cut myself off in my own emotional bubble and wallow in my misery until the feeling passes and I long for fresh air and conversation. I jot down how I feel in the moment in my notes section. Reading it all back, I question how much is fact and how much is dramatised fiction. I write about feeling empty sometimes, that’s fact. My family doesn’t know any of this because they simply aren’t supportive, that’s also fact. But am I without purpose, without meaning? Am I the lifeless, talentless body with a pulse that I write about when I feel upset? Do I truly believe that? Is that fact or fiction? I never seem to know. So last night, I needed something to give me some direction, some semblance of control and maybe just a journey to make me feel something. So of course I picked the three hour american road trip extravaganza, American Honey. I think I’ve seen this about five times now and it’s up there as one of my absolute favourite movies. It’s just so raw and real and unflinching in its portrayal of not just the USA but life itself if you really look close enough and forge your own lessons from it.
I find its examination of America has aged remarkably well compared to most, especially with the events of this year and the election. It’s not black and white and it’s certainly not glossy. It’s America with the makeup off, without the filter or the marketing gimmicks. This is American culture and people under the microscope, warts and scars and all. It’s white trash line dancing nights and neglect, crusty motels with residencies, it’s cheap looking gas stations with microwaveable snacks and souvenir stands. It’s hip hop and country, affluent neighbourhoods where the grass is greener and Christianity is a personality trait and not a religion. It’s gunshots and fireworks, oil and fire, drugs and alcohol, towns full of stray dogs and rampant poverty. Starving families, Mountain Dew and Wendy Williams on TV. It’s the discrepancy between who’s well off and who’s just left for the dust to carry away. America is the kindly truck driver who’ll ask you about your dreams and will you on to chase them, only for you to realise that the truck he’s driving is taking the cows to a vast slaughter factory that pollutes the nearby fields with sludge. America doesn’t care whether you live or die, you’re just in it, good fucking luck. Funny just how relevant this still is... nah, it’s just plain sad actually.
However this time, more than anything else, I realised my kinship with the character of Star. She’s lost really. Facing a world so large and so full, trying desperately to find a place to fit into. Calculating her fragile dream and it feeling so far out of reach. Looking for that place to really call home and settle down. She’s a wanderer, a traveler, looking for any love and affection she can scrounge along the way. She has no ties, no one who’ll really miss her, she’s looking for someone who cares in America of all places. She’s led to money and suddenly everything becomes about money. It’s not about survival, it’s about payment. All she wants is a little house in the woods and some peace and quiet, America doesn’t care. The money leads her to those affluent neighbourhoods, to oil derricks populated by men with more than they really need, to a passenger seat with a creepy stranger. It’s only when she ends up back to seeing poverty that she realises the truth. Herself and being herself is what she should care about. Screw the men who try to take advantage of her good nature, screw the negligent parents who’d rather waste away without a care in the world and screw America, a place that has done nothing but tear her down. She’s free, she’s cleansed, she’s her own woman. No longer dependent on anyone else because she’s ready to live for herself. Sometimes we all feel like the insect in the swimming pool. We’re alone and struggling, in a vast sea from which we’re trying to escape. Until someone fishes us out, allowing us to spread our wings and be free to be ourselves, to keep our dreams alive. It could be one person, multiple, or even just yourself who fishes you out of that pool. One thing’s for certain, it’s a great feeling when it happens, bless all those who save us from the water.