HoneymoonImagine the body as a vessel, an exterior shell that holds the essence of the individual. The body plus the psyche equals the being. Now, imagine an external force either filling the vessel or emptying it.

Two thought-provoking films with this concept at the center have been released this year. The first was Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, in which Scarlett Johansson plays a predatory alien who first acquires a body and then a sense of humanity in order to attract her prey. The second is Honeymoon with Rose Leslie as a newlywed who is seemingly having the humanness drained from her. Under the Skin became something of a darling for the Art House crowd, due to Johansson’s superior, naked-in-more-ways-than-one performance and a moody, broody atmosphere that bordered on pretentiousness, but never quite crossed over. Director Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon is less ambitious and more conventional than Glazer’s work, but remains a worthy companion piece to that film.

You might not think that in the course of the first 20 minutes, however. Honeymoon suffers through a shaky start that threatens the viewer’s identification and patience with the  newly married couple, Bea and Paul (Leslie and Harry Treadaway). First-time feature film director Janiak may have had some wedding night jitters of her own in the opening moments. Shooting from a script she co-wrote with fellow newbie, Phil Graziadei, Janiak has the two leads overwrought at the beginning. The premise is that the two have driven directly to Bea’s family cabin in the woods after a wedding ceremony and reception that sound like an insufferable inside joke. Leslie and Treadaway overcompensate at the beginning and come across as a couple who have slept together too soon in the relationship and are now going through the awkward morning after scene.

It is only when Bea leaves the cabin in the middle of the night and is discovered by Paul, naked and disoriented, that Janiak and her actors find their footing. Bea tries to brush off the incident as a case of sleepwalking, but she inexplicably cannot remember how to make French toast or understand that coffee beans must be ground before going in the percolator. Words elude her – a suitcase is a clothes box – and memories can no longer be recalled.

Interestingly, as the couple begins to experience difficulties, the relationship becomes more credible, and as Leslie’s physical appearance suffers, her performance escalates. Paul catches Bea practicing excuses to avoid sex in front of a mirror, and she attempts to brush aside the worsening rash on her upper thighs as mosquito bites. By the time he conducts an impromptu, horrific gynecological exam on his beloved, Paul realizes that what is happening has nothing to do with the neighbor down the road who remembers Bea so fondly from a long ago summer fling.

Honeymoon is essentially a two-hander for Leslie and Treadaway with Ben Huber and Hanna Brown making brief appearances as the near-by couple who may be experiencing similar marital difficulties. Technically, the film is solid. The night scenes in the woods are efficiently lit, and the ambient sound work is fully professional. The makeup department has an opportunity to shine in the film’s last moments and does provide a memorable image, although it is less haunting than Leslie’s final poignant attempts to remain herself and her husband’s wife.

Three stars.



  1. Horrorville says:

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