A cowboy, a mermaid and a bee walk into a lavish mansion. If you’re already sitting up and paying attention, Bees Make Honey is for you. A 1930s murder mystery, it’s a movie that leans into the dated feel of an old joke with such enthusiasm and energy that it’s impossible not to enjoy it and get swept along by its wit.
Alice Eve is on knockout form as Honey, a widow who hires an investigator (Inspector Shoerope – Wilf Scolding) to help her solve the death of her husband. From the off, she seizes the leading lady role with relish, a femme fatale playing the part of a femme fatale with a knowing dash of sass, smarts and shade. Her case? Get Shoerope to join her Halloween costume party, where everyone there is effectively reenacting the same shindig from last year, where her beloved kicked the bucket.
Costumes give way to extreme secrets, hidden plans and unspoken identities, while the production design captures the period vibe with panache, reinforcing the hint of artifice among the authenticity. Director Jack Eve zips across the stylish surface with dazzling visual flourishes, swapping about aspect ratios, slinging out split-screens and zooming into freeze-frames as he goes.
Part of the fun is seeing the announcement of a new filmmaking talent with such confidence – somewhere between Sofia Coppola and Baz Luhrmann, Eve feels like a unique voice racing to express every idea he can. (Adam Gough, whose CV ranges from In Bruges to X-Men: First Class, is an excellent editor, while Richard Stoddard’s cinematography and Ryan Beveridge’s score ooze a knowing class.) But the rest of the fun lies in watching the cast have so much fun with their roles, from The Halcyon’s Hermione Corfield as Honey’s amusing, glamorous friend to a scene-stealing Joshua McGuire, who, after a superb turn on stage in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, is on wise-cracking, slapstick form.
The plot doesn’t amount to as much as you might wish, but the script (also by Eve) never fails to entertain, blending the absurd with the familiar genre tropes, while chucking in swear words to keep things feeling unpredictably modern. By the time Trevor Eve turns up dressed as Captain Hook, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Produced by Alice and Jack, this is a family affair – and, when it comes to old-school murder mysteries, Agatha Christie fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Somebody snap this up for UK distribution.
Screenings: Saturday 23rd September, 8.15pm / Wednesday 27th September, 1pm