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Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/13/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/29/2014
If you've ever taken an AP English class, or worse, an introduction to film studies class, then you've no doubt been exposed to the idea of interpreting stories or digging for hidden meanings and symbolism. I've always been very wary of this practice, as sometimes a story is simply about what it is about. Sure, everyone can come away from a novel or movie with their own impressions, but I've certainly been privy to some readings which redefine grasping at straws. Still, there are actually some stories which contain layers and symbolism which were placed there for the audience to explore and discover. This can either can across as showing a true dedication to storytelling or pretentious. In Honeymoon, it is definitely the former, as we are invited to unravel a deceptively simple yet multi-layered story.
Newlywed couple Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) arrive at her family's lakeside cabin in Canada for their honeymoon. Following their uniquely themed wedding, they are looking forward to some time alone, as the area is sparsely populated during this pre-summer time. Bea gives Paul a quick tour of the cabin and they then celebrate their wedding night. The next day, they enjoy some canoeing and walking around the lake. That night, Paul awakens to find Bea outside in the woods, nude. Back inside, Bea states that she is fine and has no idea how she got into the forest. Following this, Paul begins to notice some odd behavior in Bea. She's standoffish and has trouble remembering things. As more and more bizarre things occur, Paul wonders if he actually knew the woman that he married.
I've always said that a strong script must be the basis for a solid movie. (A view that clearly isn't shared by much of Hollywood.) Co-Writer/Director Leigh Janiak and Co-Writer Phil Graziadei have crafted a screenplay which has an easy-to-grasp basic premise, but is also filled with many subtle clues and additional meanings. On the surface, we have the story of a newly-married couple who are spending their honeymoon away from the familiar and comfortable. Bea begins to act strange and it's obvious that something is wrong with her. I won't give anything away, but what begins as a quiet romantic drama turns into a sci-fi horror movie by the finale, complete with one very disturbing gore scene.
However, there is a lot more going on here. Again, given that I'm not a fan of "reading" movies, one doesn't have to make a great leap to see Honeymoon as a metaphor for the anxiety one can have following a wedding -- "Did I marry the person that I think I did?" It may sound like a cliche for hackneyed comedians, but marriage can change people, and Honeymoon cleverly illustrates how one can begin to scrutinize their spouse. Going even further, there are shades here of the pressure which newlyweds can feel about having children. In some societies, the wedding night is meant to be one of procreation and even those who don't believe in this can't help but have it in the back of their minds.
Janiak and Graziadei have also filled the script with callbacks. Many seemingly innocuous things from the first half of the movie come back in ominous ways later on. The duck decoy, the moth, the bait, the anchor -- these small moments which appear to only relate to Paul learning about the cabin, are actually omens of the wackiness which will play out as the story progresses. These things may fly past many viewers, but astute watchers will be rewarded with a treasure-trove of small moments which have much larger meanings.
Along with the script, kudos to Janiak for mounting a relatively small movie which has a large impact. Admittedly, the first act is very slow and not much happens. This is necessary to allow us to see Bea and Paul as a loving couple and to lull the viewer into a false sense of comfort -- We feel that this is simply going to be a drama. However, things do pick up. The pace remains very precise, but as more and more incidents occur, we ignore the film's speed and get caught up in the intricacies of the story. The movie contains only four actors in total, which really heightens the sense of isolation, and Leslie & Treadaway are asked to carry the movie, as they are in each scene. And they do a fine job. Leslie's accent may slip occasionally, but we buy these two as a couple, which make Bea's behavior harder to take.
I have to say that it's been a while since I've seen a film as effective as Honeymoon. I found myself thinking about it in depth afterwards, going over the various visual clues, and I'm sure that I'll be watching it soon to see if there's anything that I missed. The movie is definitely unnerving, and the third act contains one moment to make your skin crawl and one to break your heart. I love a big, over-the-top horror movie as much as anyone, but Honeymoon proves that small and quiet can be scary as well.
Honeymoon is yet another good movie shot in North Carolina on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. (The movie makes great use of daytime footage.) The level of detail is very good, and the depth adds to the scenes on the lake. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The one knock here is that a key scene offers deep, resonating bass which overpowers everything else on the track, making for a sudden need to adjust the volume. Otherwise, we get some nicely placed stereo and surround sound effects which do a fine job of highlighting sounds occurring off-screen.
The Honeymoon Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Interview with Actors Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway" (9 minutes) allows the two leads to discuss their experiences on the film and their views on the themes. In "Interview with Director Leigh Janiak" (7 minutes), the filmmaker talks about the origins of her career and how the script came to be. She then discusses the process of shooting the film and how the subtle moments were communicated. "The Word Behind the Scenes" (2 minutes) shows Leslie attempting to make her way through the fishing scene. "Canoe Behind the Scenes" (3 minutes) takes us on location on the lake to see a shot being completed. "AXS TV: A Look at Honeymoon" (2 minutes) is a brief featurette which plays more like a glorified trailer with comments from Leslie, Treadaway, and Janiak. The extras are rounded out by three TRAILERS for the film: Festival Trailer Extended, Festival Teaser, and Theatrical.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long