There’s said to be a form of psychosis brought on by spending time in Jerusalem – the aptly named Jerusalem Syndrome – with past visitors to the city supposedly having fallen to flights of fancy during and after their time there. Whether or not this phenomenon can account for newlywed couple Eleanor and Noam’s bizarre first night of marriage out in the streets of the city, or whether it’s just that the pair seem to be magnets to drama, is up for debate.
Israeli comedy Honeymood is quick to set out its farcical tone; on Eleanor’s (Avigail Harari) insistence, Noam (Ran Danker) repeatedly attempts to satisfy his new wife’s demand that he carry her over the threshold, and in doing so they find themselves locked out of their room. Searching Noam’s pockets for their key, Eleanor finds a letter to her new husband from his ex-girlfriend, as well as a ring tucked in the envelope alongside it. Fixated on discovering just why Noam’s ex deemed it suitable to gift a ring to the groom on his wedding day and determined to return it to her, Eleanor drags the couple on a wild goose chase around the city in search of answers.
These opening moments economically tell us all that we need to know about the duo; Eleanor is prone to melodrama, Noam has a penchant for moodiness, and together they’re as unconventional as the night they are about to embark upon. Their evening acts as a one-night microcosm of an entire tumultuous relationship. They face reckonings with their ex-partners, intrusions from in-laws, push each other away only to come back together stronger than before. Director Talya Lavie brings a wicked sense of humour to the whole surreal affair, unafraid to lean into the film’s more off-beat tendencies, including a wholly unexpected dance routine.
And while it starts brightly, coming out of the gates with energy to burn, the film suffers from Noam and Eleanor’s second act separation, the duo heading on their own adventures for large periods. With the pair apart, Honeymood lacks the direction and drive that it sets out so strongly with; as its ambitions grow, the laughs lessen. In an attempt to move the story from the absurd to the profound, Lavie loses what makes the film tick in the first place: Danker and Harari’s terrific chemistry. Individually they’re great, but together, they perfectly embody both the couple’s and the film’s special brand of crazy.
Come for the romance, stay for the surprising amount of Roomba action.
Rating (out of 5):
Honeymood was part of the programme at the BFI London Film Festival 2020.