Not all Honeymoons are so sweet
“It’s horrifying but it’s not necessarily a horror film,” Harry Treadaway shares from across the table at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Honeymoon begins with newlyweds Paul and Bea lovingly accounting their relationship into a camera after their nuptial. The chemistry between the two is instant; there’s a twinkle in their eye as they speak of the other before they both come on screen together smiling, happy, and looking forward to a bright future ahead. Treadaway plays Paul who dotes on his newly-minted bride Bea, portrayed by Rose Leslie of Game of Thrones acclaim. As they run off to enjoy their honeymoon at Bea’s family’s rustic cabin, things begin to fall apart following an unnerving incident in the woods. Slowly, Bea begins to lose her memory of the most basic things and has trouble remembering who she is on an occasion where they should be celebrating what they have become.
Honeymoon is the directorial debut of Leigh Janiak, an effervescent young filmmaker who stands out among the type you would imagine to be behind the helm of a horror/sci-fi genre film. “We premiered the movie at SXSW and we were in the Midnight Section and I did a horror panel a couple days after. It was just me and ten dudes and that was the moment that it sunk in that, ‘oh, this is a little bit different,'” she shared. While the horror aspect plays its part, the highlight of the film is the dissolution of the relationship between the two leads and the desperation of trying to hold on to what once was. The film acts as more of a character study of what one would do as they watch the person they love descend into a madness they are incapable of being able to grasp rather than the typical genre cliche of uninspired melodrama. “I wanted them to feel like real people which I think any director wants but specifically because we were in a genre space where it’s easy to fall into these women that look a certain way or these men that act a certain way. I wanted to be unfettered by those conventions and find the person that I felt would be the most authentic and real and just be able to give a depth to each of these characters because it’s not plot-driven. It’s relationship-driven and it’s very character-driven.”
Aside from two characters who make brief appearances, the film centers solely on the couple and the strength of the actors chosen to inhabit their shoes. “Harry and Rose brought a whole new level to the characters,” Janiak gushed when speaking of her two leads. “It’s stressful because you know you don’t have anything to cross-cut with in the edit. If their energy is not up and you’re not believing in the relationship it’s not like, well, let’s just cut. You’re going to be backed into a corner. Luckily Harry and Rose’s devotion to the project and the characters was so high that it worked in the end but there was a lot of stress involved.”
While the limited cast led to a lot of stress for the fledgling director, the prospect is what attracted the experienced thespians to the micro-budget project. “There was a wonderful freedom to that actually because never before did I work on a project where it pretty much was a two-hander and yet there was such professional respect that we listen to one another and we realize what was going to work for both of us and to approach it from the same kind of handsheet as it were. That was a lovely thing,” Leslie stated, who was offered the role by Janiak after seeing her previous work. The two performers who are usually given the luxury of budget were thrown into the trenches as soon as they landed in North Carolina where filming took place. With only one meeting and a few exchanged emails prior to their flight, pre-production only allowed for four days with director Janiak to dig into the characters before leaping into shooting. Despite the limited conditions, the two actors effortlessly fell into their roles. More often than not, it felt like the viewer was acting as a voyeur into an intimate affair instead of a scripted endeavor. Treadaway expanded, “The lack of time, the lack of money, it creates a momentum and energy that I think can help a film like this because you’ve got to power through. There’s not loads of time waiting around because there is no time so it keeps you in it, it keeps the drive going forward. It’s exciting for us. There’s something exciting about it being just about two humans and about what they say and about the situation they’re in and that’s quite rare.”
“What I loved about the script is there’s this eternal quest that we all have that’s finding a partner, finding someone that we love and trust and give all of ourselves to and completely know and they completely know us and what happens if that person is still there physically but something inside is starting to dissolve or disappear and how do we react to that?” Treadaway questions. “I think in a micro-level that happens all the time in a long-term relationship. I think there’s always going to be moment where that person isn’t quite who they were when they left this morning. What happened?” While scripting with her co-writer Phil Graziadei, Janiak did research into brain trauma and the type of effects it can have on one’s cognitive ability. As Bea’s memory decays, they both do their best to hold on to the relationship. Rose confessed her character had a mantra as she strived to hang on. “‘No, we are happy. We are on our honeymoon. This can’t be ruined.’ That potentially is a stronger feeling and hit me personally more in the stomach than anything else.” When asked about her own views on marriage, Leslie only had one token piece of advice to share: “Don’t go to an abandoned cottage.”
Honeymoon is in theaters, On Demand, and on iTunes today. Watch the trailer below and, perhaps more pressing, watch the ones you love with a careful eye.