It’s no secret that bees are the key to our survival. If the bees were to die, we wouldn’t survive. We feel that way about people, if we were without the ones we loved, we might not cope, we might not be able to carry on. A new love isn’t quite unearthed in Tell It To The Bees as it sometimes appears in romantic period dramas but is nurtured and gently formed. Seen from the point of a young boy as he witnesses his mother and the local doctor fall in love without realising that it is love, but instead a secret that he has not been part of.
Set in small village in Scotland in the 1950s, young mother, Lydia works at the local factory while caring for her 10 year old son, Charlie. Abandoned by her husband and ostracised by the village for being an outsider, she at first struggles to carry on. But when Dr Jean Markham returns home, despite rumours circling the village, she finds a job as the housekeeper and a home for her and Charlie. At first a tender friendship is forged between the women and slowly they fall in love, while Charlie cares for the bees that Jean has looked after since she was young. But there’s a danger of Lydia’s husband returning to take away her son, her new love and the bond she shares with her son could be shattered at any moment.
At first glance, Annabel Jankel’s film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Fiona Shaw could be written off as any other period romance, but the two leads, Holliday Grainger and Anna Paquin share chemistry and understanding that the film becomes a precious moment in time. Each moulding their characters to two very different women, Lydia, a bring light in a dark time. She doesn’t play the broken woman like others have in her characters position, she is open to possibilities and open to love. Jean, despite knowing who she is, is still tortured by the past and is on edge about the truth coming out. Tired of running away from what she sees as an obstacle, returning home is her way of standing up to those who dislike her just for who she is. Together these two women don’t just find comfort but find a soulmate who they can be exactly who they want to be.
Charlie shares his secrets with the bees forming his bond and trusts with the creatures who ultimately protect him. Secrets can cause arguments and resentment, they can tear a family apart. Lydia and Jean’s secret relationship isn’t only threatened by society. Lydia’s cousin Annie becomes a victim of ignorance and prejudice in a horrific scene towards the end. Showing that anyone’s love can be seen as unsavoury to some. In the end, love does triumph but there is always a price for it, especially period dramas, that hammer home injustices of the past.
Dir: Annabel Jankel
Based on: ‘Tell it to the Bees’ by Fiona Shaw
DoP: Bartosz Nalazek
Music: Claire M Singer
Run time: 106 minutes
Tell It to the Bees is being screened at BFI Flare 21st – 31st March