Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) are young lovers, newly married, and heading to her family’s cabin for a secluded honeymoon. She gives him the grand tour, they get to canoodling, and then the pair bed down for their first night as husband and wife. It’s not long though before Paul starts noticing things are a bit off with Bea on this trip. She forgets how to make breakfast and coffee, he discovers some weird marks on her legs, and he catches her reciting facts about herself as if to memorize them. The more he struggles to discover what’s going on the deeper she falls into this behavioral madness.
It seems one of them may be reaching the end of their vows a lot sooner than expected.
Honeymoon is somewhat of an economically-crafted thriller with its two leads, constrained setting, and bare minimum supporting cast, and all of that helps increase tension in moments of real intensity. Inexplicably though, the film suffers a major blow early on thanks to a premature plot encapsulation around the seven minute mark. Seven minutes in, and anyone with even a basic knowledge of genre movies knows exactly what’s behind the behavior and where all of this is heading.
The incident is fair game to mention since it happens only seven minutes in, but I won’t be doing so in the hope that co-writer/director Leigh Janiak trims those few seconds before the film’s official release. It wouldn’t be an issue if the film wasn’t dependent on the mystery as to what’s happening with Bea, but it plays out as if we’re still trying to guess. Instead, we already know the cause of her issues, meaning a side plot involving a pair of supporting characters is built into an empty drama as Paul grows suspicious of Bea’s now man-sized childhood friend. It’s unclear how the film would play without that certain knowledge, but it’s a safe bet the mystery and tension would be noticeably higher as viewers wondered and feared what was hiding outside the cabin’s windows and walls.
Treadaway does some compelling work here as a young man, sure of nothing but his love for Bea, slowly fall apart as that love becomes far less certain before his eyes. His positive emotions are as convincing as his less proud ones, his anger, his confusion, and his fear, and he quickly becomes the heart of it all. Leslie is less successful, but the issue is more script-related than due to her acting ability. She’s actually quite good working with what she has, but her character is tasked with moments and dialogue that feels less and less genuine.
The third act does find some intriguing and occasionally unrelenting ways to deal with convention, but they’re collectively not enough to overcome what we already know. Additionally, for all of Paul’s smarts he allows far too many odd events/behaviors to pass him by before deciding that yeah, maybe they should leave this isolated location on the lake.
Honeymoon tells a tight tale that sticks to it guns past its final frame, but revealing way too much far too soon immensely damages the film’s overall effect. It’s never fun to be so damn far ahead of the characters because you’re left waiting for them to catch up. It would be a different story if the mystery wasn’t a big part of the story, if the characters had other stuff going on, but when their focus is on discovering what you as a viewer already know you’re left with little to latch your own affection on to.
The Upside: Harry Treadaway delivers a strong performance; some harrowing moments in the third act
The Downside: Gives away the mystery at the seven minute mark but then still treats it like a mystery for the next hour; script chooses to ignore common sense thinking
On the Side: Rose Leslie starred in both Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones.
Related Topics: SXSW