BFI #LFF 2020: HONEYMOOD Film Review

 Ran Danker and Avigail Harari in Honeymood (2020)

While some of the comedy falls a little flat, Talya Lavie’s tough and empathetic take on romantic foibles in HONEYMOOD smartly subverts the typical “happily ever after” ending

3 out of 5 stars

Fresh from the success of her debut feature ZERO MOTIVATION, which won Best Film at the Tribeca Film Festival along with six Israeli Academy Awards, Director and Screenwriter Talya Lavie is back at the BFI London Film Festival with her new romantic comedy, HONEYMOOD.

Arriving at their lavish honeymoon suite on their wedding night, Eleanor (Avigail Harari), discovers that her now-husband Noam (Ran Danker) has received a ring as a wedding gift from his ex-girlfriend. A fight quickly ensues between the pair and at Eleanor’s insistence, the newlyweds leave the hotel and set out on an expedition to return the ring. But their simple mission quickly derails into an all-night odyssey through the streets of Jerusalem, as the quarrelling couple are forced to confront past lovers, repressed doubts, and the single life they have chosen to leave behind.

HONEYMOOD begins like any other romantic comedy but it isn’t long before Lavie smartly subverts the typical “happily ever after” ending, her tough and empathetic take on romantic foibles unearthing thornier questions about individual hopes and fears. The pair’s sweet, magical and romantic night soon becomes a bitter, dazed urban odyssey that confronts them both questioning whether they truly do have a future together.

Lavie’s script is best described as wry, surreal, and light, rather than laugh-out-loud funny. While some of the comedy does falls flat, Lavie delivers some delightfully spry narrative curveballs here and there and Avigail Harari and Ran Danker deliver two lively and dynamic lead performances.

Much of the film focuses on Harari, who is both likeable and engaging as the Israeli runaway bride. Her musical number with a group of security guards does feel a little out of place, but successfully highlights the character’s longing for magic, romance and adventure. Ran Danker meanwhile delivers an understated performance as Noam, Eleanor’s rather serious husband. Together, the pair drive the film forward as the young couple trying to escape their ordinary and rather boring life.

Yet, HONEYMOOD is also a somewhat messy and wild ride. Over the course of a single night, the pair meet a series of characters along the way including the parents of the groom, the sister of the bride, two ex-partners, a taxi driver whose son is waiting for a liver transplant, a suicidal woman, the receptionist of a hotel and a group of youthful soldiers to name but a few. In fact, the sheer volume of side characters makes the night – and subsequently the film – feel like its longer than it actually is and you can’t help but feel that HONEYMOOD would benefit from a little trim here and there.

That said, this is a perfectly enjoyable romantic comedy, that is dry, surreal and surprisingly poignant in places.

HONEYMOOD screens at the BFI London Film Festival on Thursday 8 October 2020.