Tell It to the Bees: Not much of a sting in this lesbian tale

Review: The story of an illicit romance in 1950s Scotland feels dull and contrived

Keepers: Holliday Grainger and Anna Paquin in Tell It to the Bees

Film Title: Tell It to the Bees

Director: Annabel Jankel

Starring: Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger, Emun Elliott, Kate Dickie, Lauren Lyle

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 106 min

Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 05:00


In a Scottish village in 1952, Lydia Weekes (Holliday Grainger) is struggling to provide for herself and young son Charlie (Gregor Selkirk). Her husband, Robert (Emun Elliott), has come back from the war as a changed man and now refuses to help his family.  

The locals have no time for Lydia as she was pregnant with Charlie before she got married. Fortunately, Lydia befriends Jean Markham (Anna Paquin), a doctor who has returned to take over her dead father’s practice. Jean offers Charlie and Lydia a place to stay, a housekeeping position for Lydia and, finally, lesbian romance. Charlie, meanwhile. bonds with the bees of the title. 

Annabel Jankel, the co-creator of Max Headroom and the director of many fine music videos and the (now intensely meme-friendly) 1993 film adaptation of Super Mario Bros has one of the most interesting careers in the business. 

Tell It to the Bees official trailer

Sadly, there’s nothing very interesting about Tell It to the Bees. The film, which is jollied along by pretty tech specs – Claire M Singer’s score, DOP Bartosz Nalazek’s eye for scenery, naturalistic performances – struggles to balance its delicate same-sex romance and bee-loving youngster.

A scene wherein the bees come to the rescue may be ludicrous, but at least it is interesting

Working from (and deviating from) Fiona Shaw’s source novel, the screenplay by sisters Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth swerves wildly from pretty BBC telly drama into the violence of the final act. 

A scene wherein the bees come to the rescue may be ludicrous, but at least it is interesting. Super Bees. Now there’s a movie we’d pay good money to see. 

Away from the speedbumps, this is a flat, dull thing. The one-dimensional characters are as defined by the costumes as anything they do or say. And the schematic set-up kills off any possibility for the suspension of disbelief.