REVIEW: Goodbye Honey (2020)

dir. Max Strand

After a long day’s driving weary trucker and ex-nurse Dawn (Pamela Jayne Morgan) pulls over in a national park to get some much-needed rest: instead her chance of a goodnight’s sleep is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Phoebe (Juliette Alice Gobin) who emerges from the woods barefoot – claiming she’s escaped from a months-long abduction – and a possible killer on the loose.

The kidnap and siege sub-genres have a lot in common, both being set in confined spaces and featuring a battle of wills between captor and captives. A key difference is that in a kidnap scenario there’s usually one abductee fending for themselves, whilst a siege tends to have a group pitted against a single or united outside force. Goodbye Honey merges these together, shifting the balance of power between characters and blurring the boundaries that separate safe and dangerous spaces. 

When Phoebe crashes into Dawn’s life she veers from wary sympathy to outright scepticism, leading the viewer to also wonder whether Phoebe is exactly who she says she is. Further complications arise when a couple of teenage boys also chance upon the truck, and though affable at first they may have their own agenda. As the night wears on however power dynamics change and the characters must decide who they can trust. 

Director Strand, making his debut here, utilises the limited sets to excellent effect, the confines of the back of the truck and its cab by turns representing both sanctuary and confinement. The dark expanse of the park similarly has a dual character: Dawn reassures Phoebe that its vastness means they are a “needle in a haystack” for anyone trying to find them, but the surrounding woods also have the potential to provide cover for someone intent on tracking the women down. 

Tonal shifts abound throughout with scenes reminiscent of works as varied as Funny Games, The Hitcher and Giallo films. These gear changes don’t jar though, the single location and development of Dawn and Phoebe’s characters grounding the film with a sense of coherence even as the unpredictable plot leaves viewers unsure of their heading.  

Touching on themes of female friendship, family obligations, male violence and the denial of responsibility Goodbye Honey packs a lot into its short runtime, all anchored by strong performances from Morgan and Gobin. Some of the conflict is a little contrived – Phoebe and Dawn have little reason to distrust one another, and other characters are introduced mainly to add narrative tension – but despite this it’s overall a taut, well-told thriller starting at the end point of a horror sub-genre and spinning it out to a satisfying conclusion.

Melissa Cox

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