Tell It to the Bees
Tell it to the Bees, a phrase taken loosely from a Rudyard Kipling quote, is Annabel Jankel’s new tearful but pretty period drama. It’s an adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s novel of the same name set in 1952, Scotland. To put it lightly, the feature is bleak, it batters you around and it feels as unresolved as it is unexplored. It’s clear the characters are suffering equally as a near-continual stream of saltwater rolls down their beautiful 20th-century, post-war faces.
At the centre of the film are ten-year-old Charlie and the concealed relationship between his mother, Lydia (Holliday Grainger) and new friend-slash-doctor-slash-beekeeper, Jean (Anna Paquin). It’s a small town; secrets don’t keep for long. The most detrimental to catch buzz of the affair is Lydia’s abusive husband, now engaged to another sweet victim of his fragile masculinity and violent outbursts. Young Charlie’s coping mechanism is to whisper his secrets to the hive of bees (SparkNotes version: “Mum is sad”) and write some genuinely interesting bee facts into his observational diary.
The dramatic timing is often confused as things go from bad to worse for Lydia. Once these moments of drama unfold, expositional dialogue recounts them back as a conduit for more tears. Flashbacks distractingly serve to slow the pace and muddle whether the narrative is bound to Charlie’s childlike perspective or that of the adults. Nonetheless, there are more poignant tragic segments that encapsulate just how little social life has progressed. The prejudice towards the lesbian and biracial couples, an enforced back-alley abortion and Charlie’s male model for how to grow up give a cutting portrait of things to continue to come.
Tell It to the Bees has all the trimmings to send whispering your own traumas to the hive. The final act is a harrowing unfolding of events swiftly followed by a heavy dose of magic that saves the day. A spectacular swarm of bees slips the film so far into unreal fantasy that it feels like placing a tiny plaster over a gaping wound.
Tell It to the Bees is released nationwide on 19th July 2019.
Watch the trailer for Tell It to the Bees here: