Tell It to the Bees (3 stars)

Tell It to the Bees

Holliday Grainger and Anna Paquin share convincing chemistry in this 50s-set love story

Love is the great healer in Tell It to the Bees, an elegantly crafted, quietly touching adaptation of the Fiona Shaw novel. The Scotland of 1952 provides a suitably dreich, oppressive setting for a tale in which narrow minds are gently prised open and young and old alike seem to learn valuable lessons, grow and come of age.

The story unfolds through the innocent eyes of schoolboy Charlie, played by scene-stealing screen natural Gregor Selkirk. Charlie's English mother Lydia (Holliday Grainger) is a stranded outsider in a tight-knit Scottish community. Abandoned by her philandering husband Robert (Emun Elliott), she struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table. A chance encounter with local doctor and beekeeper Jean (Anna Paquin) is the start of a friendship that blossoms into a scandalous romance.

Tell It to the Bees may be a little too cautious and restrained in places but there is a tender, convincing chemistry between the two leads that helps to carry the story. Grainger captures the wild, free-spirit in Lydia that craves a better life than the one she has been dealt. Paquin's starchy, more reserved Jean seems to visibly thaw in the warm glow of her newfound love.

The way in which one relationship challenges and changes several lives makes the film a window into a time that could be equally unforgiving of a white woman daring to find love with a biracial man, or a boy like Charlie, whose sensitivity is at odds with the straitjacket of conventional masculinity. The consequences of blind prejudices add some grit to a mild-mannered but persuasive tale that marks a welcome return to filmmaking for Annabel Jankel, directing her first cinema feature since Super Mario Bros way back in 1993.

Selected release from Fri 19 Jul.

Tell It to the Bees

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • UK
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Annabel Jankel
  • Cast: Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger, Gregor Selkirk

Lydia (Grainger) is a stranded outsider in a tight-knit Scottish community who finds herself falling for local doctor and beekeeper Jean (Paquin). A little too cautious and restrained in places, but elegantly crafted and touching, and a welcome return to filmmaking for director Jankel.

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