Opening with a frantic young woman racing around a house, desperately trying to race away from an off-screen menace, Goodbye Honey grabs the viewer’s attention immediately, instantly drawing them into the mystery. Writer and director Max Strand then shifts his focus to older female truck driver Dawn (Pamela Jayne Morgan). Dawn is travelling cross-country overnight with a client’s cargo. After pulling off-road for a much needed rest, she is accosted by a frightened young woman. This girl, Phoebe, is different to the one from the opener, and she has a haunting and distressing story for Dawn – a man has been holding her captive for months. Certain that the man is on her trail, Phoebe begs Dawn to hide her until help can be found. Initially mistrustful of one another, the two women soon find themselves having to work together if they want to survive the night.
This is Strand’s debut feature, but one not without a spark or two of genius. Goodbye Honey offers a taut tale of two women, both dealing with trauma at differing points in their life. Although never explicitly stated, there are several moments that point to something sinister in Dawn’s past. This prior event seems to cloud her judgement when it comes to Phoebe, and rather than instantly trust and try to help her, she is reluctant to get involved. The interplay between them makes for compelling viewing and the uneasy alliance they have to forge is exciting to watch play out.
It’s not just their interactions that are shrouded in veils of tension, the whole film has an uncomfortable atmosphere that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats. Maybe it’s the desolate night-time setting, or maybe it’s the unknown hidden threat lurking just out of sight, but everything about Goodbye Honey feels unsettled. These tensions reach a fever pitch upon the introduction of two late-night walkers. As Dawn hides Phoebe, she faces off with two strange men whom she approaches for help. Their response is far from helpful, and this sequence presents the most intense moment of the film, the menace and malis oozing off of the screen.
The tension built up crumbles soon after this encounter as Phoebe tries to explain to Dawn exactly what she has been through. The flashback to the ordeal that she has endured is overlong and drags the pacing down. The sequence is filled with constant repetition; it’s meant to amplify the mundane and despairing time that was suffered. It instead ends up weighing the movie down and the repetition grates. By delving into the cold facts of Phoebe’s trauma, Strand leaves little to the imagination and there’s a loss of mystique. There is of course still the chance that Phoebe’s story is entirely fabricated, but after spending so much time in the flashback, that concept doesn’t work as well.
As first-time features go, Strand demonstrates a lot of promise here. There’s an interesting concept at the core of Goodbye Honey and Strand does great work at building intensity. The momentum eventually hits a stumbling block, and after having to start again, it never quite recovers, resulting in an entertaining, but off-balance film.
Goodbye Honey is on digital download on 11th May 2021.
For a debut feature, Strand displays some great work at suspense building within Goodbye Honey, though there’s noy enough momentum to carry it through the full duration.