A Treatment By Andrew McElmervin Productions
It is present day, and in the depths of London’s vast and repugnant industrial wasteland a boy – Honey Dobson – awakens. The backdrop of dirtied, long deserted dockland buildings seems almost interminable; the grandeur of Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben seem a universe away.
(Mrs Hughes suggested to our group that she was struck by the notion that perhaps the setting of Honey could be in a post-apocalyptic world near to our time. Visually, the scenery could be comparable to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later) –
They live in an abandoned careers office next to a grimy Baltic off-licence. Other locales on the street in which they live are “The Proud Pauper’s” pub, the dilapidated school bus shelter (of which Honey does not attend) and the non-official residences of various furtive quasi-vagrants. Their ‘house’ comprises of the most primitive of kitchens; a room with a flea-bitten sofa and stolen TV; a room upstairs with flimsy mattresses strewn about the place; a toilet – negligible, a diminution; and the back room – the prisoner holding room. Dobson is a human trafficker.
Brash conversations in the opening few minutes between Dobson and his friends, with a silent Honey present, denotes to the viewer that Dobson is the pack leader of a rancorous ring of traffickers; that their trafficking has become quite common for them; and that it is a means to survival/feeding a hard drug habit. They are sat around in the mattress room. Present is Dobson – aggressive, authoritative; Big – a laconic, bearded giant, the elder of the group, an ursine physiognomy, always brandishing a switchblade; Weasel – a scratching addict, babbling and loquacious cockney, very slight, dark bagged eyes, a blemished complexity; and Markie – lives across the road, derisive to the others bar Dobson, he is slightly better dressed and vaguely intelligent.
One can later surmise that he is called Honey derisively by the group for his quietude and avuncular sensitivity towards the captives.
Infrequent, horrific shots of the holding room are shown throughout the feature. The room is wanting everything. It is practically bare except for an ever flickering naked bulb. The walls are stained and dingy. The slaves are all semi nude, male, and severely malnourished. Whilst feeding them and taking them to the toilet Dobson and Big are aggressive towards them, Weasel and Markie are indifferent to them, and Honey secretly aids them with extra food and water when he can. A night scene shows how the deportation of the slaves occur, via Big’s white transit van.
Tension begins to rise as Dobson plans with Markie a single trafficking operation which would make them. It would be lucrative beyond their comprehension – they could all escape their stagnating lives. Also, Dobson severely beats Honey for talking to a boy-captive who begs him for food. Nevertheless, Honey aids him.
The day of deporting their last operation draws nearer. Honey begins to have oddly lucid dreams about the boy trying to save him whilst he is drowning in dark, stagnant water. Weasel is beaten and cast out the group by Dobson for showing Markie’s pretty girlfriend across to the flat one day although he was just babbling to her. Although Honey is not heartfelt by Weasel‘s banishing, he was sickened by Weasel’s obsequiousness sometimes, he begins to feel alone. His connection with this boy develops; it is not one of talking – just of melancholy moments of sitting with him in the holding room.
In later scenes he talks to the girl from the shop – Elizabeth. She is evidently richer than the other girls from the area, she is more dignant and more affectionate although scared of Honey at first – she calls him Harry. She is mesmorisingly pretty and radiant to Honey. He watches her at the bus stop whilst standing across the road at “The Proud Pauper’s”. His dreams become intimate and involve her.
Meanwhile, Dobson, Big, and Markie finalise plans to deport the rest of the traffic. A celebratory event at the “Pauper” is arranged for when Big sets off with the captives under the disguise of Honey’s birthday. Honey is obviously disillusioned with Dobson now, one learns through a single conversation between him and Elizabeth that Dobson hates him and beats him regularly. Honey asks her whether he should take a leap of faith and do something for himself for once and she tells him he should. She touches his hand and he obviously feels this emotionally too. He does not get another chance of seeing her for a few days.
After stewing over her, he summons the courage to speak to her again when she is at the bus stop and she informs him that she will be attending his party. He is truly astonished by this, a girl like her to spend an evening in a place like the “Pauper” with people like him, and on his birthday too. He dreams that night of a world without Dobson, or Big, or Markie, a world with Elizabeth, and where there was no-one like the boy captive.
(The closing climax and Honey’s cathartic conversation with Dobson coming imminently in the storyline bears notions of dramatic modern social tragedy. The suffering and the purging of the protagonist’s sins in the conclusion all connote aspects of drama which Aristotle coined as Tragedy. Themeatically then, Honey is colluding with plays dating back as far as these chaps –
Genre-wise, Honey is ultimately a modern social tragedy.)
Night falls. There is noise down the road at the pub but Dobson sits anxiously in the mattress room waiting for Big and his van.
Honey has a long climatic conversation with Dobson attempting to dissuade him from the transaction. He says he loves him (referring to him as James) and Dobson rises and cries never to call him that. Big enters puts the money down and takes his coat off, he leaves again to prepare the van. Honey continues to talk of his family love for Dobson who keeps dismissing him, Dobson finally tells him he is not taking Honey with him when the captives have gone. Honey throws a bottle at his head screaming “James!” at him to which Dobson looks shocked and paces towards him telling him once again never to call him James. Harry replies never to call him Honey, and takes Big’s knife from on top of his coat and kills Dobson in a haze of tears and screams.
There is silence for a while except for Honey’s breathing. He calls the police quickly, seeing Big waiting in the van beginning to lose patience. He sneaks out the back and runs to the pub to look for Elizabeth to tell her he is handing himself to the police but wanted to see her after whatever punishment he has to endure.
He chooses society. He chooses conformation. He is shaking with his own personal climax. He wants Elizabeth, he has overthrown Dobson as he has been meaning to his whole life, he wants to give himself in to the police and explain his helplessness, and then start afresh. He can see the lights of the pub down the road and he stumbles. He is deeply perturbed by the killing of his brother and this self-revelation of inner fortitude and morality. He does not think he can reach the lights of the pub and the awaiting Elizabeth. He vomits. He rises again and makes it up to the pub doors.
He is about to enter with a smile on his face when he is attracted to the side alley. In silence, he sees Markie having sex with Elizabeth; this was obviously the only reason Elizabeth was in the area. He spins around yet not knowing where to turn. He walks back towards the house to take the money but the police rip around the corner and with prodigious celerity proceed on him. They baton the back of his legs and unnecessarily mace him. He is a willing captive. He is violently cuffed and the closing shot is of Honey’s bleeding face being grazed against the London pavement – looking to the bus stop.
Society fails him. Elizabeth is gone, the police are unrelentingly aggressive. He does not have her, the money, a reconciliation with Dobson, or freedom. The film is, subversely, a stab at the implacable cruelties of society, and an insight into the suffering induced by various forms of captivity: the traffic, Weasel’s addiction, Honey’s final arrest, and an imprisonment of lifestyle.