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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.05.18] Canada drama

Honey Bee is the teenaged truck-stop prostitute at the centre of Honey Bee, the feature film debut of documentary filmmaker Rama Rau.

Fraught with past troubles including a mother who abandoned her followed by a series of problem-ridden foster homes, Natalie (AKA Honey Bee), finds herself in the throes of a "relationship" with a pimp who manages her along with three other girls. She's clearly the favourite-of-the-moment but that doesn't exempt her from going to work.

While on duty one night, Natalie is picked up by police and though they do what they can to convince her that Ryan, the pimp, is simply using her before selling her downriver when he tires of her or when she stops making money, Natalie is not totally sold on the reality. When police turn her over to Child Services who in turn ship her off to a foster home in the middle of nowhere in hopes of rehabilitating her, she makes an effort to re-connect with Ryan as soon as she possibly can.

Julia Sarah Stone, the young actress who stars as the film's titular character, is a rising talent to watch. With a list of credits which includes both TV and film, she left an unforgettable mark in last year's Allure (review) alongside Evan Rachel Wood, and the young actress continues to impress here, giving an honest, emotional performance. Stone is clearly not afraid of tackling difficult subject matter and she's perfect for the material. Her youthful, innocent appearance hides eyes that convey a much more complicated existence.

Rau is also no stranger to difficult subject matter, having worked on documentaries ranging on everything from exotic dancers (League of Exotique Dancers) and the effects of cyberbullying (No Place to Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story) to her upcoming doc on sex-selected abortions in India (The Daughter Tree). Her documentaries feature strong narrative stories and her style as a filmmaker works well with the subject matter of Honey Bee which Rau tackles with an unflinching eye. Rau and cinematographer Steven Cosens, whose most recent project is the excellent Canadian crime series "Cardinal," capture the emotions of Natalie's changing situation; from the highs to the lows and back again.

Thought Honey Bee is clearly a Canadian film, writers Bonnie Fairweather and Kathleen Hepburn don't hide that fact, the story is, sadly, universal and the mental and physical abuse suffered by the young men and women who find themselves in these situations are far too common. What sets Honey Bee apart is Stone's captivating performance.

Honey Bee had its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival. Look for it making the festival rounds in the coming months.

Recommended Release: Allure

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