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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Character Dynamics Research: Honey Boy (dir. Alma Har'el, 2019)

Observing character dynamics and how it aids the editing in Honey Boy

This film is an Amazon Prime exclusive, so if you have Amazon Prime refer to the time-codes for the scenes that I've talked about below!

Scene 1, 00:59:27 - 01:04:00

Using close-ups where necessary to draw further attention to minuscule performance details

Honey Boy, 01:01:20

An important factor of demonstrating character dynamics in film is to deliver to the audience which character has the power in the scene; it is the editing which works to demonstrate and guide audiences through this experience and to pursue an expression that shows the hierarchy of power between characters. On a surface-level it is clear that Otis' father is the one in power, with his strong personality, aggressive habits, and his age/his presence as an adult. But, what I am interested in is how the editing is constructed to enhance this and to make us, as the audience, concerned on whether Otis is going to be safe in that environment.Within the first sequence of this scene, the shots of Otis' dad that have been selected are close-ups, typical of creating a sense of intimacy and inviting audiences in to see more. By being in-close with him, we are able to see his strong facial expressions and unwavering eye contact. Before Otis' father returns after screaming at the neighbours, we are in a close-up on Otis, drawing audience members into his hesitation and fear as he quickly stops nibbling on his fingertips with anxiety. He knows that no matter what he says in the following moments it will not change the outcome; Otis' father is going to take out his anger of the neighbours onto Otis. This expresses how the use of close-ups in constructing character dynamics must be carefully selected as it draws audiences in closer to elements of performance and body language.

Scene 2, 01:22:00 - 01:25:55

The use of intercutting between timelines to enhance a scene's emotional impact

Honey Boy, 01:25:50

This scene is gorgeously constructed. Audiences are provided a sequence of intercutting between two of Otis' timelines: a) a moment where after a conversation between him as a child and his father leads to them visit the side of a road where Otis' father is growing marijuana -- b) Otis as an adult on the ends of his journey to forgive his father for his wrongdoings. In both, they share an embrace that the edit constructs at the crescendo of these tender and loving moments, paralleling them with one another. In aligning these two moments together, the emotional impact of the scenes are heightened, as the edit suggests that Otis is connecting with these moments of nostalgia as he makes his way to see his father again. We are able to see more from Otis' perspective and relate to him as a character. For the first time in the entirety of the film we experience a lack of assertion of power from Otis' father, even in the memory of Otis' childhood that we see intercutting too. It is clear that this memory of his father is one that Otis greatly treasures. Otis is on his journey to end the cycle that his father speaks about in the voiceover, he no longer wants to have a grudge over his father.

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