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Honey | DVD Review

Valeria Golino DVD Cover HoneySnagging a special mention after a premiere in Un Certain Regard at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (where it received a commendation from the Ecumenical jury), actress Valeria Golino’s directorial debut Honey played to generally warm reception and even snagged seven David di Donatello Award nods (but went home empty handed). A limited theatrical in the US in March of 2014 didn’t seem to attract much of a response, unfortunate considering Golino has made quite an expressive and enjoyable film, perhaps lost in a sea of strong titles coming out of Italy over the past two years that seem to have saturated conversation.

Golino hinges an intriguing character study around the thorny topic of euthanasia, with her directorial debut. Jasmine Trinca stars as an assisted suicide activist, a beautiful harbinger of oblivion, and it would seem that death certainly becomes her in this meditative tale that avoids polemics in favor of self-discovery and exploration. Light in narrative events, choosing to focus instead on her protagonist’s work interactions, which are always conveyed with a muted, yet respectful empathy, Golino’s film is an adept and engrossing debut, enhanced by a hypnotizing soundtrack and striking visuals.

Irene (Jasmine Trinca), masquerades as Honey, an operative in a secret ring of professionals that specialize in assisted suicide with terminally ill patients. She gets her assignments from her ex-lover (Libero Di Rienzo), a hospital physician. It’s Irene/Honey’s job to meet with the clientele to answer questions and offer advice just prior to administering a lethal dose of barbiturates she has to fly all the way to Mexico to buy. While she’s in the midst of an affair with a married lover (Vinicio Marchioni), she gets a rather cryptic new assignment to meet with a client who wishes to end his life but without Honey’s customary help. Upon meeting Carlo Grimaldi (Carlo Cecchi), Honey seems rebuffed at his dismissive demeanor. Later, she learns Grimaldi isn’t terminally ill, but just depressed, which is a violation of her ethical rationale for her line of work. Revisiting Grimaldi, she attempts to dissuade him from what he is about to do, and though their meetings are at first caustic, Irene and Grimaldi slowly warm to one another, both exploring what it is they’re experiencing that has them stuck in their respective ennui.

We first meet the slender Irene during one of her favorite activities, swimming in the ocean, poured into her wetsuit, sporting a hassle free hair do that often lends her an androgynous presence, another aspect of her character wavering on the cusp between two points or two ideals. Golino lays down Caribou’s hypnotizing track, “Found Out,” as we observe her, setting up one of several pensively meditative sequences gracing Honey. Trinca, whose visage strongly favors Kimberly Peirce here, is present in nearly every frame, filmed in nearly every angle and shot imaginable. But as we drink her up in her icy hot presentation, we learn little of her beliefs and motivations until the presence of Grimaldi shakes her a bit, and it’s revealed that she’s a bit idealistic and naive. For as impenetrable as Honey/Irene is, Carlo Cecchi as Grimaldi is blunt and forthright, the perfect foil for the cagey rebel, who seems to be in need of a father figure.

DVD Review

A Blu-ray packaging bypassed, Kino Lorber’s bare bones presentation is basically just the film, presented in 2.35:1. But hey, the theatrical trailer and a meager stills gallery are included for a little bit of flair.

Final Thoughts

Though it arrived in theatrical release in the US without much ado, Honey will most likely be rediscovered as an early highlight in Trinca’s filmography, or, should Golino pursue other directorial projects, as a strong debut worthy of reconsideration. Hungarian cinematographer Gergely Poharnok (who was DP for Gyorgy Palfi’s Hukkle and Taxidermia) spins interesting flourish into visual sequences, primarily focused on catching Trinca in every moment possible, which only enhances Honey as a careful character study rather than a critique of her line of work (as the film is sure to draw comparison to Marco Bellocchio’s 2012 euthanasia drama, Dormant Beauty, which eschewed subtlety for galvanizing proclamation). Golino, who has enjoyed a varied and fascinating career, a well-known presence to Western audiences (Rain Man; Immortal Beloved) as she is to her native country, proves to be an adept talent behind the camera as well.

Film: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc: ★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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