Honeymood – London Film Festival 2020 – Film Review

A wedding night and the start of that honeymoon is meant to be a blissful moment in a couple’s new adventure together but in Honeymood there is a large dose of melodrama that follows the newlyweds instead! Inspired by the formula of Before Sunrise, Honeymood charts a cross-town journey, embarked on by the newlyweds, all in one night which inevitably raises questions as to their compatibility. Slapstick in nature, Honeymood is a charming, humorous film set in Jerusalem. Expect to laugh out loud at this surreal romantic comedy as Honeymood takes its audience on a night time journey through Jerusalem and its sub-cultures.

It all started with a ring but unusually it is not the wedding ring that is the focus of the night, but rather one given to the bride groom Noam, played by Ran Danker, by his former girlfriend. Eleanor, his curious wife, rather than being content to relax after a no doubt stressful wedding day, wishes to locate and interrogate his ex about the ring to hilarious effect. Honeymood offers a simple tale, traversing genres, but it is the performance from Avigail Harari as Eleanor that really carries the film, although her persona seems irritating for the majority of the film. Prone to melodrama, compared to Noam’s quiet insistence to rest after the ‘nightmare’ of the wedding day was over, Eleanor is clearly the decisive one in their relationship and perhaps the more domineering as she is not reluctant to throw herself in front of a car, literally, to achieve things from her perspective.

With impeccable comic timing throughout, Eleanor and Noam seem mis-matched as they embark on the journey to discover the mystery of the ring. Director Talya Lavie utilises this opportunity, in her second feature film, to provide a perspective of the different social strata throughout Jerusalem on the couple’s night out and the tracking shots used fully immerse the audience with the comedic activities on screen. It would seem natural for the bride, Eleanor, to have changed from her wedding attire into something more comfortable for this investigation but even that activity is the subject of a joke. Eleanor is even described as a ‘runaway bride’ on several occasions.

Indeed, some of the scenarios encountered may seem contrived as, predictably, there are many obstacles encountered en route. Given how late it is, at 2am, this is not a quest that most ‘ordinary’ people would embark on but Eleanor in one revelatory scene admits to being afraid to be ‘ordinary’ and is surprised that people in the countryside go to sleep so early. This element lies at the heart of Honeymood in its quest to be other than ‘ordinary’ which works for the most part, while highlighting the absurd, but there are several mis-fires.

Honeymood truly comes into its own within its second half, when the couple separate to follow their own lines of enquiry. Lavie skilfully directs the expressive Harari, in such moments, effectively capturing her magnetic essence on camera. It is easy to understand why the male characters on the screen gravitate towards her and her drama queen antics as she is captivating to watch. Unfortunately, her role as Eleanor is not provided with sufficient material to create that emotional resonance with the audience. As such, Eleanor seems to be a spoiled, one dimensional character which may be a critique from Lavie on a particular sector within that culture.

Eleanor and Noam in Honeymood
Eleanor and Noam in Honeymood

Fortunately, Honeymood focuses on the comedic elements more than the romance under Lavie’s vision. The film does rely on predictable tropes within the genre however and as such does not offer anything new nor the opportunity to become invested in the two leads. This is unfortunate as there are some standout moments from Harari, particularly when Honeymood embraces the absurd, with some particularly surreal scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood musical. There are equally whimsical nods to Amelie as Honeymood attempts to recreate that essence of cinematic magic.

Honeymood is quirky which ensures that the plot remains intriguing and whilst the film touches upon heavier subjects such as grief and illness it fails to provide any depth. For film lovers, a particularly amusing scene occurs with a discussion of Apocalypse Now and an amateur film director. Honeymood in such scenes, and others involving the supporting characters in Noam’s and Eleanor’s lives, tries to please all. Honeymood attempts to provide a commentary, through its exaggerated representation of various norms within society, including some of the wedding day rituals, but struggles to do do convincingly.

You may find yourself unwittingly drawn in to the world of Eleanor and Noam for this extremely lengthy night and rooting for either Team Eleanor or Team Noam. This is evidence of Lavie’s impressive direction despite the plot being lacking. The various sub-plots also seem superfluous when a greater focus could have been placed on Eleanor and her perspective, as part of the female gaze, as Honeymood superficially observes the protagonists with the camera remaining at a distance. As such, Honeymood does not deliver sufficient character development as its predecessors such as Before Sunrise.

Honeymood is a light-hearted and enjoyable romantic comedy with a subtle examination of the different cultures and elitism that exists in Jerusalem. The film is heavy on exposition, as not a lot happens quite frankly, but the chemistry between Eleanor and Noam is riveting to watch.

Overall, Honeymood provides an amusing examination of the start of the marital journey for newlyweds and the obstacles that may be encountered at each stage, with that question of ‘will they or won’t they’ survive as a couple lingering throughout. Honeymood, is a lot of fun to watch and provides that escapism that may be sought with its homage to classic Hollywood fairtyales and musicals.

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