James Bird demonstrates deft, innovative direction

by Martin Hafer

I am very glad I saw this film at a local film festival.  This is because although I loved the film, listening to the director, James Bird, discussing the movie afterwards really made me appreciate his genius and ability to make a great looking film with a cut-rate budget!  For example, he was able to secure the rights to various popular and normally very expensive songs by simply friending people on Facebook and then convincing them to watch the film.  They loved what they saw so much that they gave him the music at a tiny fraction of the normal cost…all thanks to his leg work and a bit of nerve!  It just proves it never hurts to ask!

Honeyglue is a strange and very unconventional romance.  Morgan (Adriana Mather) meets a strange gender-bending man at a nightclub.  Jordan (Zach Villa) likes to wear dresses and makeup and his sexual orientation is quite confusing at first.  While they seem to hit it off in this wild club, Morgan soon leaves him and instructs him not to call her or see her again.  Why?  Well, Morgan actually is a very conventional girl from a very conventional family and tonight she is taking a walk on the wild side–a walk she never plans on taking again.  However, Jordan is smitten and after stealing Morgan’s wallet, he seeks her out and is surprised to see she is so ‘normal’ and comes from suburbia.  When Morgan’s brother and parents see Jordan, they are naturally shocked–he’s sporting a kilt, full make-up and a woman’s hairdo!  And, although Jordan is at first upset to see him, she relents and invites him into the home.

Soon after Jordan comes into this house, he is shocked once again.  No, not at how conventional the family is but when she tells him why she didn’t want to see him.  It’s because she has brain cancer and there’s a good chance she is going to die…and she doesn’t want Jordan or anyone to fall in love with her.  However, Jordan is very insistent and he tells Morgan that even if they only have a little bit of time together, it’s worth the risk.  Unfortunately, however, Jordan and her family soon get word from the doctors that she is not responding to chemotherapy and that they must prepare for her to die….sooner as opposed to later.  The doctors give her about three months to live and during the later stages, she’ll become very, very ill.  Because she is on borrowed time, she and Jordan decide to do something very crazy–although they only just met, they’ll get married and enjoy the heck out of this time they have.  And, being a very unconventional guy, both he and Jordan wear wedding gowns at their impromptu wedding.  Her parents aren’t exactly thrilled by this, but they understand Jordan’s decision and wish her and Jordan the best.

Written & Directed by
James Bird
Adriana Mather, Christopher Heyerdahl, Jessica Tuck
Release Date
26 April 2015
Martin’s Grade: A

So why did I like this film so much?  Well, the characters are really exciting to watch and the actors did great jobs as well.  Jordan is such a strange, gender-bending sort of guy.  He also has a larcenous side as well…but a decency buried beneath.  As for Jordan, you marvel as Adriana Mather becomes thinner and more and more frail through the course of the film and you can only assume she starved herself and had great make-up to convey her character.  Plus, both characters really went all out and were willing to shave their heads for the parts!  The rest of the cast also were just terrific, particularly Morgan’s family (Christopher Heyerdahl, Jessica Tuck and Bamboo Stewart).  This is a brave film that isn’t afraid of emotion or showing the family struggling to deal with death.

Honyglue Director
Director James Bird

The part of the film that actually impressed me the most wasn’t the great story or the wonderful acting but the odd cinematography you see throughout the movie.  Fortunately, the director explained how he did some of these amazing scenes.  In one scene, Jordan and Morgan are next to each other and the camera alternates between focusing on one and then the other in the same shot.  Technically, this looks impossible and James Bird said that he got the idea for doing this split diopter after talking about it with Quentin Tarantino.  The cameraman tried to make the shot but couldn’t and ultimately Bird did…by accidentally breaking the lens and thus enabling this complicated shot!  Additionally, the film features a mix of normal digital footage along with portions done in with an old 8mm camera  which was done as a homage to his deceased co-worker who recently bought such a camera.  There are also several shots where the camera pans completely around the actors many times…and you can’t see any evidence of the camera operator or that it’s not a completely natural shot.  The film is truly innovative and looks tremendous.  It’s amazing to think that this film is only the second time Bird has directed.

Before you look for this film, I think I should add a small warning.  It’s not surprising that this film is quite sad and would best be seen with some handy Kleenex.  However, don’t be surprised if the movie churns up a lot of issues for you, as it sure me pretty hard as I couldn’t help but think about my own bout with cancer as well as a debilitating illness currently being experienced by a loved one.  This film surely could be tough to watch for some viewers.  But for the willing, the film is exquisitely made, wonderfully written and oddly life-affirming as well. One of the clear shining stars at the festival, the applause as well as tears from the audience were strong and heartfelt.