Shia LaBeouf’s self-penned biopic turns out to be the biggest surprise of 2019. With expert assurance, the opening shot yanks us into the action without even bothering to use a stunt double.A simulated blast sucks tethered movie star Otis (Noah Jupe, age 12; Lucas Hedges, age 22) deep within the frame. When symptoms of PTSD emerge, the cauterized headliner can barely lift his voice to mutter, “From what?” Along with the pyrotechnics, a walking trauma case of an old man (LaBeouf) who infects all who cross his path with a sense of fear and self-loathing, that’s what. There’s but one typical aspect to dad's otherwise unpredictable nature; a resentful stage father jealous of his son’s success in every way. At its heart, a film about a boy who both wants and deserves a better father and the inescapable reality that he will never get one. When it comes to cinema as therapy, LeBeouf put his time (and ours) to superb use here. Almost all is forgiven. One more like this and we’ll consider Disturbia permanently expunged from the record. (2019) — Scott Marks
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