She stands in a stark truck stop lot in northern Ontario. The driver of a parked eighteen wheeler flicks his lights. She walks to the truck and ties a bandana on the sideview to announce that someone has this cabin. She looks like a dashboard figure, a damaged pixie.
She is fourteen.
Canadian director Rama Rau made her name in documentaries, chronicling such topics as the neo-Burlesque movement and Rehtaeh Parsons. Her 2018 narrative feature (written by Bonnie Fairweather and Kathleen Hepburn) gives fictive life to a newsworthy subject, human trafficking.
Julia Sarah Stone carries much of the film. As Natalie, an abused product of a neglectful foster care system, she has fallen under the thrall of a young pimp who recruits younger girls. After her arrest, she gets sent to a farm run by people who take in foster children. Initially, it's a disaster. She hates the farm and she cannot accept that her guardians are in earnest. She very slowly bonds with her foster-sister, virginal, self-harming Chante (Michelle McLeod), while running circles around the self-proclaimed tough kids of her new small town high school. Along the way, we get disturbing insight, often through casual comments, into her past lives.
Questions hover over Natalie. Can she actually adjust to her new life? And what will she do when her pimp (whom she's tried to contact) comes around to collect her?
Rau shoots the film as she has her documentaries, with evocative and provocative images. Honey Bee stings, but in that softened A-14 way. It fares best at night here, when the major dramatic moments occur. The results are uneven as the truck stop light and the script is a little contrived, but Honey Bee delivers a memorable tale that aspires to hope.