American Honey ★★★★★

Excellent coming-of-age film by Andrea Arnold, a director with a unique talent for depicting the world of women from poor and marginalized communities. This was her first film set in the US, and it's beautifully done. The plot is about a young woman who escapes from her own neglectful and abusive family to join up with a group of teens and post-teen youth who survive by selling magazine subscriptions with not-always honest methods.

Once one adapts to the episodic nature of the story as the group moves from one midwestern and Southern community to another, the hard backgrounds and rowdy camaraderie of the ragtag youth form the backdrop to Star (the lead character) learning about survival, sex, love and hurt. Star is played by Sasha Lane, whom Arnold apparently discovered. With no prior acting experience, she portrays the alternating toughness and vulnerability of the character marvelously. Shia LaBeouf was also surprisingly good as the young man in the group she falls for in spite of his ambiguity towards her, as is Riely Keogh as the hardened mercenary leader of the group.

The photography is stunning, and Arnold's British class consciousness enables her to show both the hard lives of those on the margins in a realistic and non-sentimental way. And the group of young people (many of whom are non-actors) in the cast do exemplary work. I didn't know much about this film except the director's reputation, and it is one that will stay with me.

Seen on Netflix where it can be currently streamed.