The realm of post-apocalyptic fiction and coming of age tales finds itself submerged beneath a tide of sameness. Too often are they framed in the same sort of ‘young adult’ style that permeates such novels as The Host and The Maze Runner series, and their respective film adaptations. They all fall into the usual trappings – hot girls, buff guys, and a setting that glosses over anything truly interesting to serve as window dressing for a romance.
Such, thankfully, is not the case here. When All The Bees Flew Away bases itself on a novel premise for a post-apocalyptic scenario, all while delivering a narrative that is simple yet punchy enough over the course of the film’s fleeting 36 minutes. Edging past its Kickstarter goal of £10,000 and basing itself, at least partly, on the idea of the consequences of mass bee extinction, the end result is a brief yet compelling look at another world that will stay with you despite its length.
The film is suitably minimalistic in its storytelling, leaving the bulk of the details of the apocalypse itself up to the imagination and choosing to focus on the trials and tribulations of three boys – Colm (Harrison Watson), Ed (Dominic Hall) and George (Joseph McErlean) – as they venture through the woods to find a safe haven in the form of Colm’s brother Jay. Director Connor Pearce does not bombard the senses with bleak imagery and grim monologues, distinguishing itself instead through using the world as a framework for a come of age tale.
The events that led up to the world’s current state are merely glimpsed at in flashbacks and alluded to in conversation, as character interaction is placed front and centre. Genuinely talented child actors are a rarity in today’s industry, and the three put their developing talent under the spotlight. Hall is particularly outstanding in this regard, proving his worth as the centre point of some of the more furiously emotional moments in the film, and the three play off one another superbly, expertly crafting a believable image of three boys brought together by the unseen chaos that has torn their world asunder. To the last, they are innocent souls confiding in each other and bearing witness to things no-one their age should see, looking out for one another and forging their path through a world both realistic and alien all at once, and all three excel in showing that.
The cinematography is vibrant and the focus on natural surroundings outstanding as vast expanses of greenefry practically ooze forth from the screen in many of the wider shots. For the sequences that explore the darker side of living in a ruined world, the glimpses of the more chaotic side of this future are suitably harrowing despite their brevity. The angles are fittingly tight and claustrophobic, dotted with close-ups, particularly in one intense sequence involving an isolated house. Even the solitary existence that the boys lead is made all the more menacing by shots of vast, empty expanses – the camera does the all the talking in relation to this ruined world, making it feel real as the boys go about their journey of personal development.
Another positive that makes the film more believable is the decision to present rather ‘grounded’ technology in the form of the ‘Mechaball’. Evocative of designs present in features like Gerry Anderson’s Terrahawks and more modern technology like NASA’s IntBall drone aboard the ISS, the small spherical device serves as the kids’ guide through the woods, and is also established to be a relatively commonplace piece of tech within the setting. The computer effects used to bring such a contraption to life are sometimes a touch spotty, but for the most part the drone feels like a believable physical presence within the film’s universe, serving as both a testament to convincing design and effective budget and prop management.
There are a smattering of downsides – though the performances of the lead actors are mostly raw and very much genuine, the script is still peppered with the odd stilted or wooden delivery that detracts from the overall experience, predominantly from Watson, which mars the otherwise praiseworthy performances given. Additionally the film comes to suffer from periods of pacing that are a touch too slow for the running time, and although it benefits the characters and gives more meat to the world they inhabit the resolution feels rushed and ultimately falls somewhat flat because of it. Naturally, in the case of a short film, one must be mindful of time and budgetary constraints – but were this to have five or ten minutes of time added to it, it may well have been better off.
Despite these bumps, however, Bees makes up for its weaknesses by being a genuinely compelling watch, built off the back of a fresh concept, and a demonstration of young talent with untapped potential. If this is an indicator of things yet to come from Connor Pearce, the future looks very bright indeed.