"Honey," a character study about a young woman that helps terminally ill clients commit suicide, is an equally fascinating and frustrating feature debut. Italian filmmaker Valeria Golino's adaptation of Mauro Covacich's novel "A nome tuo" ("In Your Name") is best when Golino teasingly speculates about her title character's actions. Golino gives us just enough information to speculate why Irene (aka: "Honey") why she needs to control everything about her patients' last moments, right down to the music they listen to as they die. But beyond that, we're free to think whatever we like about Irene (Jasmine Trinca).
Unfortunately, while Irene is a complex subject, our limited view of her is often frustrating. Her platonic relationship with Carlo (Carlo Cecchi), a suicidally depressed patient, only tells us so much. "Honey" is consequently only sometimes compelling. Its story is never as interesting as its conflicted heroine.
When we first meet Irene, she's rushing to a patient's bedside. She's nervous, but she doesn't show it once she's on her bike, on her way. From then on, Irene is Honey. You can see the difference between the woman and her persona in a later scene in which she rehearses the lies she's going to tell a pharmacist (she needs to euthanize her sick 14-year-old dog… he's very ill… she wants to attend to him personally…). Still, these opening scenes establish that Irene and Honey only appear to be different people when nobody's looking.
But Irene's smooth routine is immediately derailed when she learns that Carlo, an older patient, is not physically ill, but rather depressed. That revelation makes Irene desperate: helping Carlo kill himself violates her personal ethics. So, because she feels responsible for him, Irene bonds with Carlo, and tries to ease his pain in other ways.