Tell It to the Bees

"Shall we dance?"
6/10 - A touching LGBTQ romance drama with strong lead performances.
Release Date: 
Friday, July 19, 2019
Written by: 

Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger's characters fall in love in this LGBTQ romance drama.


The course of true love never did run smooth, William Shakespeare once said. That famous saying couldn't be more apt for Tell It to the Bees.

Annabel Jankel's British drama is set in a small Scottish town in 1952. Lydia (Holliday Grainger) is struggling being a single mother to Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) after her husband Robbie (Emun Elliott) runs off with another woman.

Dr. Jean Markham (Anna Paquin) returns home to take over her late father's local practice, having left years earlier under a cloud of shame and controversy, and befriends Charlie, teaching him all about beekeeping and letting him tell his secrets to her bees.

She eventually develops a close friendship with Lydia, and once she's fired from her factory job and evicted from her home, Jean suggests they both move into her large, empty home, and their bond blossoms into a romance.

Naturally, given the time period, their relationship causes controversy with the locals and puts a spanner in the works when Robbie tries to go for full custody of Charlie.


The film is told through the eyes of Charlie, who is impressively played by Selkirk, an 11-year-old who is given a lot of grown-up, emotional work to do.

He is torn between his mum and dad and whether Lydia and Jean's relationship is right or wrong.

Paquin and Grainger also give fine performances. Jean is cold and troubled but you eventually come to understand why, while Lydia is warm and sympathetic and desperate for love and company.

However, Paquin gives an inconsistent attempt at a Scottish accent. It's a solid effort but you're always aware of it, especially compared to the easy natural brogues of her native co-stars.

The film, based on a novel by Fiona Shaw, takes many unexpected and dramatic twists and turns and ends up being quite shocking.

However, it was let down by the bees. The story didn't need them as a plot device, it was strong enough on its own.

They are digitally rendered often - and very obviously so - and that brought you out of the action, while you have to suspend your belief when they become more involved in the plot.

Tell It to the Bees movingly shows how dreadfully members of the LGBTQ community were treated back in the '50s. And while it makes you grateful times have changed, it also highlights how far there is to go.

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