Honeymoon is an underrated science fiction thriller/horror, which needs more attention. The film is directed by Leigh Janiak as her feature film directorial debut. As you can imagine from the title of the film, its plot concerns a couple of their honeymoon.
However, this is not a romantic, light-hearted story, but rather one of paranoia and madness. The film’s inception evolved after after Janiak viewed Monsters and Tiny Furniture, and she and Phil Graziadei began writing the script in 2012. While writing the film’s script, Janiak was inspired by the idea that “Even small moments though can drive a wedge between people” and wondered just how far people can be pushed until things begin to fall apart.
Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway play Bea and Paul, respectively. They’re beautiful, have great chemistry, and seem destined to have a lovely honeymoon in a remote cabin home. They can hike the woods, meet and greet with the locals, and get the privacy newlyweds need to start their life together. The two of them seem so much in love, (sharing a shower together, and cuddling on a boat), that it’s almost sickly. They have the rest of their lives together, the world is their oyster, but there’s danger lurking in the background.
The mood quickly sours, when suddenly eerie lights appear in the middle of the night. There’s something odd going on in the woods. Bea suddenly starts sleepwalking, and returns back to the cabin acting strangely. There are marks on her body that can’t be explained; has she been a victim of sexual abuse or something far more sinister?
Bea’s behaviour, and her identity, change. She acts like she’s not quite herself, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. It’s the simple things, like the fact that she doesn’t know how to make French toast. She can’t make coffee. Bea is confused and can’t recall certain details. And the lustful woman who came to the cabin has been replaced by someone who is somewhat repulsed by the idea of sex. There’s something very strange and disturbing going on. Just what has happened to Bea and can their relationship survive?
Rose Leslie’s performance is phenomenal. She presents the audience with a woman who is struggling to understand the situation she is and what has happened to her. Leslie’s performance is resistant of Mia Farrow’s in Rosemary’s Baby, with a woman literally falling apart at the steams as she begins to lose her grasp on reality.
Leslie’s greatest scene comes after Paul finds her in the woods, in a state of shock. Her skittish, nervous behaviour, with her eyes as wide as saucers, help to build up the picture of a woman who has been through a terrible ordeal. She comes across as a shell-shocked, PTSD suffer who is discovered by Paul, shivering in the darkness. Her expression is like a deer caught in the headlights, terrified and somewhat aware of her impending doom.
The morning after the incident in the woods, Bea tries to put on a brave face and tries her hardest to mask her fear. The viewer along with Paul, are unaware of what has occurred in the woods which is a testament to Leslie’s performance. She gives off the impression that she has been a victim of a terrible attack, in an honest and realistic way without ever becoming melodramatic or over-the-top.
Leslie’s performance is what keeps the viewer invested in the film, and garners their empathy. Honeymoon is a film which is worth seeing for Leslie’s performance, even if the narrative becomes a little too clever for its own good. Rose Leslie remains one of Britain’s most intriguing and most underused actors, and proves here that she can bloody well act.