Movie Review

Film Review: HONEYMOON (2014): A New Take on the Fear of Commitment

Harry Treadway Honeymoon

Honeymoon (2014) Film Review from the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), a movie directed by Leigh Jeniak, and starring Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, and Hanna Brown.

Honeymoon posed the simple question everyone in a committed relationship asks, at least once: “who the hell did I get involved with?” The answer may have been on the more fantastical side, but the allegory was pretty clear.

The film began, appropriately enough, with couple Bea (Rose Leslie) & Paul (Harry Treadway) heading into the honeymoon phase of their marriage. For the setting, Rose brought Paul to the remote, lakeside family retreat of her childhood. Between his blushing bride, and the scenic backdrop, Paul didn’t have a care in the World. Not at first, anyway.

The first chink in the armor came with an unexpected reunion, between Rose and childhood Summer friend, Will (Ben Huber). Despite Rose’s best efforts, Paul felt a bit blindsided by the appearance of this “childhood friend” Rose had never mentioned having. Thanks to that perceived oversight, on Rose’s part, the disturbing state of Will’s own relationship, with wife, Annie (Hanna Brown), went largely ignored.

This initial spat, over Bea not being forthcoming, and Paul being unfairly accusatory, was pretty petty; but when a string of bizarre incidents, including Bea’s brief disappearance, resulted in a noticeable change in Bea’s character & nature, that first falling out took on a life of its own. Paul couldn’t help but fear that the changes to Bea represented a secretive & duplicitous nature, while Bea felt set upon by Paul’s ongoing accusations, and each began to to question the reliability & trustworthiness of the other. From there, the film’s conflict ranged from generally pedestrian, to deeply personal & wildly unique, to terrifyingly general in implication.

Beyond the themes of marital discord, and trust issues within relationships, in general, there may have been something said about certain anxieties, concerning larger gender issues. When I first saw the original Species, I couldn’t shake the notion that Sil (Natasha Henstridge) represented an inherent threat, not as a literal genocidal agent of alien malevolence, but as a sexually liberated woman, whose reproductive powers were beyond anyone else’s control. Kind of a leap – I know. Still, the scenario was that of a woman whose freedom to have sex meant mankind’s extinction. So can you say it wasn’t about her womb & libido being a threat? Well, as much as the thought of feminine seduction playing to the fears of men bothered me, the sequel, with a male antagonist, presented the male libido as outright predatory. So if lady parts are a trap, then the male member is an offensive weapon. I guess that made us even.

Whether such underlying themes are deliberate, or subconscious (if you’re waiting for me to make allowance for my own imagination, keep waiting), I got a sense for that dread with Honeymoon. In this case it was back to the fear of the uterus, and the kind of anxiety that can come of what can be considered, in all honesty, the end that matrimony serves as a means to. Even if I am alone on this, the angle added a particularly sickening twist to both the plot, and to the torment of the two principal characters.

There was a subtlety to Honeymoon that almost belied it’s outcome, almost to the point where you may not want as complete a reveal as the film concluded with. As a slow boil, however, it was well worth the ride. The emphasis on suspense, and character breakdown was reminiscent of horror classics like the second Invasion of the Body Snatchers film (best of the lot), or Jaws (the mechanical failures that forced the shark’s exposure to a bare minimum was the best thing to happen to the film); but the closest example that came to mind was Rosemary’s Baby. As with the Polansky film, real world relationship issues overshadowed the underlying plot to the point where, even though all the signs were there, the viewer might still find that the shift fully into that plot a little jarring. A part of me almost wanted the horror element to be a hoax. It just seemed like an easy answer to the much more difficult questions, confronted by the couple; but it did take a while for everyone to accept that Rosemary’s Baby was, on its face, about Satanists unleashing the Anti-Christ. Not the sort of scenario confronted by a lot of people; so more of a blindsiding for Rosemary than it was for the audience.

Unlike Rosemary, the characters of Honeymoon lived in a world full of references to their experiences in the film. Even if none of them saw Rosemary’s Baby, you’d think someone had seen The X-Files, one of the countless mystery/ conspiracy reenactment shows, or were at least made aware of them.

A pet peeve of mine, going back as long as I have been watching movies & television, is the nagging notion that characters in a particular predicament – suspense thriller/ horror flick, in this case – never seem to have ever seen a film, or TV show, that reflects their predicament. Nobody in a horror movie ever sees the writing on the wall, and I can only assume it’s because they had never seen the kind of horror movie they, themselves, happen to be in. The fact that most exceptions to the rule are played for ironic effect (e.g. Scream) doesn’t help.

Someone like Paul shouldn’t have to be yelled at by the viewing audience (not that any of us were, mind you – we were a respectable sort) when things take a turn for the scary. If we can recognize the point of departure, to the dangerously surreal, so should he. The fact that his sort never does – or at least insists on denial – can only be attributed to attachment/ commitment; something that hinges on the subject of that attachment. In this case, that would be Bea.

Rose Leslie did make a convincing case for Bea, as someone worth sticking by, and fighting for, even if much of that commitment came from Paul’s tragic earnestness. Frankly, I would have found Paul’s denial, of what seemed obvious to me, frustrating & annoying had it not been for Bea being such a credible point of fixation. To that end, Harry Treadway was effective in tying his frustrations & fears, regarding Bea, to a genuine love & concern for her; Paul would have made for a much less sympathetic character, otherwise.

Still, once it becomes clear that reason has gone out the window, and a loved one has been clearly compromised, in some rather unpredictable way, I would at least expect certain common sense measures to be taken. Measures like, say, keeping out of the compromised party’s swing radius; but that would be ignoring the fact that, where genuine commitment is involved, both parties become compromised.

With that in mind, Honeymoon‘s end was as inevitable as it was disturbing. The open ended nature of that conclusion serving to reaffirm (to me) the perpetual state of my previous concerns over primal inter-gender anxieties.

Honeymoon punches above its weight class, and probably for the simple reason that it does not tap into fears we have about what’s out there, but rather the fears we may have about ourselves & our loved ones. The greatest source of fear there is.

8/10

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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