HIFF Review: ‘Honey’
REVIEW BY BURL BURLINGAME / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes you can just imagine the audiences films were made for. Here, they’re sitting in some dingy, gray, urban coffeeshop in Berlin or Paris after seeing “Honey,” smoking a train of filthy-smelling cigarettes and waxing flatulent about the grand “themes” of the movie, the grandness of the creeping despair that envelopes the film.
It’s the story of Yusef, a kindergarten-age Turkish kid who stutters uncontrollably when he speaks, so he doesn’t speak, and he gazes with envy upon his classmates who can read out loud. They get merit pins. Yusef gets nothing. His father is away from home a lot, seeking beehives, but when he’s home, he makes toys for the neighbor kids, not for Yusef. Mom works in the fields, and her goal in life seems to be to get Yusef to drink a glass of milk, which he detests, but the one time he does it, just to please her, she doesn’t notice. And there’s a better than even chance that if Yusef wanders out into the dark, brooding forest around his mountainside hovel of a home, seeking oblivion, no one will notice he’s gone.
What do you think happens? The citybound film aestheticists will suck on their cigs and drone on about the crushing inevitability of despair and the horror of nature unbound. The rest of us just think, bummer.
OK, so “Honey” is not for every taste. The central character of Yusef is playing by an amazing young actor, Bora Altas, whose face reflects every indignity upon the child with a kind of stoic, dazed acceptance. The tale unfolds is gaspingly beautiful, wild mountain countrysides — not your usual mental image of Turkey — and unlike American films, which are bumper-to-bumper filled with noise, “Honey” is very quiet, with long stretches filled only with the sounds of wind soughing through the trees. Sure, all sorts of things can be read into the metaphor of seeking honey in the wilderness, including man’s rapaciousness for the environment.