Writer and Director: Talya Lavie

No one sleeps in Jerusalem in this wry rom com from Tayla Lavie. It might be expected the two newlyweds in Honeymood would have good reason to stay awake on their wedding night, but sex is far from their minds as jealousies and misunderstandings force them out into the streets and into a series of strange encounters with other insomniacs.

Noam’s father has booked the Royal Suite in the Waldorf Astoria for the happy couple, but they soon decide they aren’t so happy when Eleanor finds that Noam’s ex-girlfriend has given him a ring during the marriage ceremony. Eleanor wants to return it and so the couple go out into the night air leaving the luxury of the hotel room behind to find her.

At first the humour is comfortably rom com and there are some funny moments involving hotel key cards and even a robot vacuum cleaner that soon eats up the contested ring. But when they venture outside the hotel, the film turns into darker territory. One of the first people they meet is a taxi driver who wants Noam, as a new groom, to bless him and pray that his son will finally get his liver transplant. After the makeshift blessing the taxi moves on again, and apparently coming out of the radio is Don Mclean’s Starry Starry Night and, for a moment, Honeymood flirts with being an existential road movie from the 1990s.

But rather than Night On Earth, Lavie’s film is reminiscent of another 90s film Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater’s romantic drama taking place over the course of a single night. Like Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply, our lovers walk and talk, argue and make up, but soon Lavie adds surreal touches to her film. While these additions are welcome, they, too, are echoes of earlier films. A bizarre scene featuring the Prime Minister’s bodyguards seems to have La La Land on its mind, while other parts starring a suicidal nurse play homage to David Lynch.

Throughout Ran Danker is fairly, and perfectly, inscrutable as Noam, and this downplaying comes as a tonic when compared to the usual rom com heroes, wisecracking and goofballing. However, we have seen the character of Eleanor many times before, and while her quirkiness would be right at home in a Hollywood movie, Avigail Harari tries hard to give her some depth. Eleanor may be more fun, but it’s Noam’s reticence that attracts us. Only towards the end does Harari reveal that Eleanor knows that her kookiness won’t save her from everything.

They have strong support from a small cast with Elisha Banai playing Eleanor’s creepy ex Michael and Yael Folman playing Noam’s placid ex Renana. There’s some great comedy from Noam’s parents, Meir Suissa and Orly Silbersatz, who stay awake to make sure that their son is happy, and not hungry. The taxi driver Israel almost steals the show, but the actor’s name seems to go uncredited in the film’s notes.

Talya Lavie has already won the Nora Ephron prize for her debut film Zero Motivation, which came out in 2014, but that though, still a comedy, was much darker than Honeymood her second feature. Honeymood is closer to Ephron’s own comedies When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle, but Lavie has placed her own stamp on things, starting her film where those classics end.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 7 to 18 October 2020

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