Honey (Miele) - Italian Film Festival
There are many films that receive us with an open hug, films with stories and characters that radiate with a warm glow of invitation that makes us feel all fuzzy inside. “Honey” – or Miele in its original Italian translation – is not one of those films. An impressive feature directorial debut by Italian thespian Valeria Golino, “Honey” will be one of the many unique selection of films being shown in this year’s Lavazza Italian Film Festival.
They say that actors make great directors, and that couldn’t be any more true with Golino, an internationally well-established actress (English-speaking audiences might recognise her as Tom Cruise’s girlfriend in Rain Man), who expertly utilises the wealth of experiences she has cultivated from working with other directors in Honey.
Golino tackles a controversial subject for her first feature effort, as the film explores the trials and tribulations of Irene (played by Jasmine Trinca), a euthanasia sympathiser who – under the alias “Honey” – helps provide the terminally ill with a peaceful way to end their suffering, on their own terms. Irene is presented here as an angel of death, as she conducts her ‘work’ in a politely detached, but sympathetically respectful, procedural manner. Due to the morally-grey and highly sensitive nature of her work, Irene lives her life in an almost isolated manner, with keeping her real job a secret from her sometimes lover. It is a lonely way to live, but Irene is motivated by a strong sense of purpose. She is fuelled by the belief that her job is entirely necessary, that she is helping those who are suffering but are ignored by the system. Those core beliefs are challenged when Carlo Grimaldi (Carlo Cecchi), a perfectly healthy elderly architect who is contemplating suicide, tricks Irene into supplying him with a lethal dose of the drug she uses on her clients.
In the hands of a lesser director, the film could run the risk of descending into tear-jerking melodrama due to its sensitive subject matter, but Golino’s meticulous and detached direction prevents the film from going there. Golino takes an almost hyper-realistic approach to the film that is reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s 2012 film, “Amour”. However, under the grim and clinical aesthetics of the film lies a subtle hint of warmth, brilliantly reflected by Trinca’s portrayal of its main protagonist. Irene’s profession requires her to maintain a cool and distant composure, but Trinca manages to convey so much of the internal conflict Irene wrestles with underneath, especially during the many close-ups on Trinca’s face. Meanwhile, Cecchi expertly treads the line between the humour and sombreness with his portrayal of Grimaldi, whose witty sarcasm and dry cynicism makes him the perfect foil for Irene.
Honey tells an imaginatively provocative and compelling story that cleverly subverts traditional plot conventions - at least, for the majority of its run time. The film does dip its toe into the realm of predictability as it reaches its climax, followed by a sentimental ending that a certain audience member (spoiler: it’s this one) would argue to not entirely fit with the tone of the rest of the film. However, those are simply minor flaws in an otherwise though-provoking and well-crafted directorial debut.
I give it 3.5 out of 5 honey jars.
Last showing is 6:30pm 19 October at Luna SX. Don't miss it!