With severely cut dyed-blue hair and a perpetually wounded look, young rising star Julia Sarah Stone (Wet Bum, Weirdos) plays the titular Honey Bee, an underage truck stop prostitute in Northern Ontario. Natalie being her real name, she is a victim of the foster care system, lured into a sex trafficking ring by her pimp Ryan, a sleaze of the highest order who reiterates that he loves her the most over all the other girls as a sick mind game to keep her from straying.
Rama Rau’s debut feature doesn’t shy away from the horrors of underage prostitution, displaying a world of bland motels and psychological manipulation. Once an undercover cop busts Honey Bee, however, she is placed in a new foster home in order to grapple with who she really wants to be. At this point the film turns to the formula book, hitting the expected emotional beats as Natalie realizes she can have a whole different future than the one promised by Ryan.
Stone commits to an all-consuming role that requires her to be in every scene but it’s too bad that most of her big moments end up feeling calculated like awards show clips. The game supporting cast brings some heart to the proceedings though, including Michelle McLeod (Don’t Talk to Irene) as Natalie’s bubbly new foster sister, Maurice Dean Wint (Cube, Rude) as the cop who picks her up and Martha Plimpton as her tough-love new foster mom.
Honey Bee is certainly watchable but it’s hard to get too invested when we can see exactly where the story is going. Keeping some of the grit of its early scenes could have made for a raw and powerful character study. As it is, it’s about as hard-hitting as your average episode of “Degrassi”.
- Release Date: 3/23/2019