Rose Leslie is really bloody good.
There was barely any indication in Downton Abbey and not a huge amount to work with in Game Of Thrones beyond being sultry and knowing, but Utopia Series 2 showed the full range of her acting palette as she mimicked the younger version of an established character and steered her deeper into the morally bankrupt waters of Channel 4’s much-missed conspiracy thriller.
Once you get past the disconcerting shock of Leslie – along with Penny Dreadful‘s pallid necromancer, Harry Treadaway – rocking American accents as a pair of newlyweds spending a weekend in the boonies, Honeymoon offers up her whole range on a heaving platter of skin-crawlingly Cronenbergian body-horror, and you might not like what you find.
Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway)’s chemistry convinces as a couple, but there’s something intentionally febrile about their relationship that keeps the real source of their disintegration at bay for the first half.
Much like the similarly toned In Fear, which tugged at the threads of a young relationship – keeping the external causes just out of shot – Honeymoon‘s foreground settles on the intimate paranoia between its two leads in the aftermath of Bea being found wandering the woods, completely naked and with no memory of what’s transpired. Steadily her behaviour becomes more and more alien, and Paul begins to wonder just how well he really knows his young bride.
There’s a brief Straw Dogs misdirect with Bea’s childhood friend Will (Ben Huber), who blankets his introduction with a thick layer of tension, before the two realise just what viscous hue of Not Quite Right they’re dealing with.
The rural location is the third party in their relationship. As icy as its lake, the warmth on screen comes so exclusively from the newly weds that their mounting unease is reflected – and amplified – by the water’s mirrored surface and the empty ash-grey of the sky. When things go wrong, we feel it like parasite stirring in the gut.