GOODBYE HONEY (2020)
A film by Max Strand and Todd Rawiszer
An Examine Dots picture
Produced by Josh Michaels, Todd Rawiszer and Max Strand
Directed by Max Strand
Written by Max Strand and Todd Rawiszer
Director of Photography Todd Rawiszer
Editor Jay Yachetta
Production Design Cansu Guney
(All images courtesy Examine Dots)
GOODBYE HONEY is a first feature that doesn’t play like one. Through its (mostly) taut 96 minutes, director Max Strand, co-writer Todd Rawiszer, and the cast & crew deliver a suspenseful thriller that deftly blends character development and suspense to produce an effective — and affecting — movie. As the audience meets weary truck driver Hope (Pamela Jayne Morgan) and a young, traumatized woman named Phoebe, as we watch their lives intertwine, tension and discovery blend and complement each other, to the story’s benefit and the audience’s appreciation.
GOODBYE HONEY (hereafter GH) begins with the simplicity of a campfire story. Late at night, a woman drives a moving van down a dark road. Hope, owner and sole employee of Nate’s Haul-N-Go parks her rig in a secluded state park for some desperately needed rest. But any hope of sleep vanishes when a bedraggled young woman (Juliette Alice Gobin) frantically bangs on the cabin window, pleading for rescue from an unseen, and possibly imaginary, threat.
Hope faces a choice — charity or safety.
Will she be a Good Samaritan — and where will that choice take her?
In the darkest hours of the night and against her gut instinct, Hope chooses to help this terrified young woman. Hope tries to assist Phoebe in a way that puts herself in the least danger, but events, as they so often do in both movies and real-life, take on a life of their own.
It’s a compliment to Morgan’s performance that I immediately believed in Hope’s innate decency, as well as her soul-deep mental & physical weariness. In contrast, Gobin’s performance had me guessing for a good portion of GH’s runtime; I wasn’t sure if I could trust anything Phoebe said and wondered when — and if -Hope’s trust would be betrayed. I believed Phoebe had experienced severe trauma — but some doubts persisted, almost until the end; was Phoebe running from a real, human threat — or the demons in her mind?
Strand and Rawiszer skillfully change up the suspense tropes throughout the film. Hope’s story seems to be that of the “Lone Woman in Peril”, before changing up to “Protagonist Encounters Untrustworthy Stranger”, before transforming into “Reluctant Sisterhood Fights an External Threat”.
Or more precisely, two separate threats. The first being a red herring setup to prepare Hope and Phoebe for the second, their encounter with GH’s true antagonist.
While I understand the story reasons behind Hope’s encounter with the drunk, stoned McGuffin Brothers Zach (Rafe Soule) and Tyler (Jake Laurence), I wish the scene had been a few minutes shorter. We get the point of this interlude — demonstrating how vulnerable Hope & Phoebe are as a seemingly harmless encounter with two young men flips into ugly & threatening territory on a dime, but for me, this scene lingered after the point was made. At least it does a great job, as all modern suspense/horror movies must, of demonstrating the foolishness of relying on cell phones to save you in a horror/suspense movie.
As the threads of GH’s storylines draw together in the final act, what could come across as wild coincidence instead feels like fate & symmetry. When the truth behind the seemingly random encounter of Hope and Phoebe is revealed, it feels organic, not contrived. GH uses the previously mentioned “untrustworthy stranger” cliché to build a story of bonding instead of division and tells a female-centric story that doesn’t feel like a labored lecture. For Hope and Phoebe, each woman’s journey feels right. Hope’s exhaustion (spiritual & physical) sees resolution, while Phoebe regains agency over her own life.
GOODBY HONEY is a noteworthy addition to the small but mighty “captivity horror” sub-genre, alongside MARTYRS (2008), PRISONERS (2013), and DON’T BREATHE (2016).
Pamela Jayne Morgan Hope Mitchell
Juliette Alice Gogin Phoebe Beenum
Paul C. Kelly Cass Rodick
Zach Rafe Soule
Tyler Jake Laurence
Allison Peyton Michelle Edwards
Whitney Rodick Keara Benton