20 minutes in and I was wishing Netfix were a physical object so I could tangibly destroy it. 20 minutes of watching an insufferable newlywed couple who could barely keep their hands off each other, groping and kissing while cooking, calling each other by their pet names, prefixed by a clip of their cloying, cringeworthy, smug pre-wedding video. No, I didn’t give a shit about how your intolerance to Indian food almost destroyed your first date. It’s not that I hate couples (albeit I do have that friend who repeatedly either cancels on me or doesn’t make plans unless her boyfriend is busy); it’s just that this one is so nauseatingly clingy that I got second-hand embarrassment.
Honeymoon, a directorial debut for the impressive Leigh Janiak, is far smarter than its first third makes it look. I’ll admit I was drawn in by stars Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey; Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful); I trusted it to be, at the very least, decent because this was post-breakout role for both of them (and neither would have been desperately chasing any old role), and the fact that I was going in blind made the film’s core mystery more effective.
Bea (Leslie) and Paul (Treadaway) are on their titular honeymoon in a romantic lakeside cabin. After Bea goes missing one night, the couple initially chalk it up to sleepwalking, but she begins to act erratic and distant. All of their sickeningly sweet interactions at those first 20 minutes are reversed or mildly skewed. Paul veers between skirting around the moods and gingerly asking if she’s OK. Both methods amount to fuck-all.
Throughout, it’s just the two of them on-screen, bar two very brief scenes with a local restaurant-owning couple. Nobody goes on the internet or has cellphones, or even drives out of town. It’s the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, and sometimes a boat. It’s wonderfully claustrophobic, with palpable, super-slow-burning dread. We don’t know what’s going on with Bea; she won’t tell us, and at first we’re just as frustrated as Paul. (Even if the whole film can be viewed as a smart allegory for a lack of communication in relationships, this withholding of information is still grating.)
Stick with it, and you’ll find some very strong performances (the idea of two Brits both doing mildly dodgy American accents will fade), taut direction, a haunting but simple score (by Compliance‘s Heather McIntosh), some truly disturbing body horror, and some genuine chills.