The feature film debut of Leigh Janiak who also co-wrote the movie with Phil Graziadei, who delivered his first feature film writing job too, Honeymoon is one of those films that has you thinking it is one thing and then becoming something else entirely. It mixes genres and with it’s minimal actor numbers on screen, delivers some strong character work along the way. It is always interesting to watch a debut feature, especially one with the intrigue that this one held.
We meet Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie), a newlywed couple who are off to a family lakeside cabin in the Canadian countryside for their honeymoon. Happy, besotted with one another and ready to enjoy their break in the rural air together, they make love, go boating and chit-chat over breakfast. All seems well. They go out to a small restaurant nearby for dinner but it’s closed, it’s there that they meet a guy who is in a bad mood, smashing furniture in anger. He eventually reveals himself as Will (Ben Huber), after he recognizes Bea and the two embrace, showing that they knew one another from years gone by. Will’s wife, Annie (Hanna Brown), tells Bea and Paul to leave. She looks dishevelled and somewhat peculiar in her behaviour, but Bea and Paul leave and carry on their honeymoon as normal. That is until Paul wakes in the middle of the night to find Bea isn’t beside him and when he calls out for her there is no answer. Paul searches for Bea, afraid that something might have happened to her, and he eventually, after a while of looking, finds her naked in the woods outside. Bea appears to be in a trance when he finds her, and when she wakes she brushes the experience off as merely “sleep walking”, showers and tells Paul that everything is fine. Paul tries to accept it, but when bruises appear on Bea the following day, as well as strange markings on her inner thighs, and her memory begins to cause a few problems, Paul starts to worry more for Bea, concerned about what happened in the woods, and who or what was causing these things to happen. Things go from bad to worse, in various ways, with Paul wondering if Will, who was overly friendly with Bea when they were in the restaurant, is something to do with it. Investigating the goings on while trying to keep Bea from falling further into the strange downward spiral she finds herself tumbling down, the story takes some bizarre and shocking turns.
I won’t reveal anything else about the film because it would spoil some of the major things that make this one of the best dark-hybrid-genre films I’ve seen this year. I don’t even want to state what genres it belongs to in case it gives too much away. Just see it for yourself and make your own mind up about how you feel. For me, I was more than impressed with this film, and the performances in it from the skimpy four-person cast. Leslie, as Bea, is an actress I have enjoyed in one of my favourite television shows, Game of Thrones, where she plays Ygritte (you kno’ nuthin Jon Snow), and so I was interested to see her in a feature film as a co-lead. She did a wonderful job as Bea, going from a normal love-struck wife to someone dealing with something dark, something confusing and something that makes her do seemingly strange and irrational things. Her work here was excellent, and so was that of Treadaway (Fish Tank), as Paul. His concerned and fearful reaction to the situation felt raw and realistic, appearing off balance at times when things really went sour. These two had a great chemistry, and I thought they showed a real knowledge of their characters, something I appreciated vastly. The two smaller roles of Will and Annie are, in fact, vital ones though they aren’t on screen very much. They do their job very well though, and are important to the way the plot unfolds, until its outrageous closing moments. Some have said that the film is a slow-burner, but I like that and enjoyed spending time relating to, and seeing the changes in, the characters on screen.
The music and sound design is something I rarely go into in my reviews. Sometimes I do, when I feel like it added a big amount, and here I think it did. There is some great work from the sound department and from Heather McIntosh, who was also responsible for the composing on one of my favourite films of 2014, Riley Stearns’ Faults. The practical effects are also wonderfully done, and the film looks beautiful. It is an incredible debut from Janiak, and the writing from herself and Graziadei is top notch. This ticked all the boxes for me, simply put, and I am thankful for the obscure and unconventional manner in which the story was told. It felt fresh, exciting and new, which is always a good thing.
In a year filled with blockbusters and gigantic productions it is nice to end the year with something with a smaller budget, a small cast and a focus on story and quality of delivery from everyone. I recommend this highly to anyone who is after that spark of uniqueness that you might feel is missing when you step into a cinema.