I’ve never been a religious person. I’ve always thought there were some kind of other-worldly forces that influence our lives in some way, but I’ve never been quite taken with Christianity, Catholicism or any other organized religion.
So, part of the reason I was interested in this movie, as it came across my feed on Netflix one day, was the idea that this young girl had similar views to mine. In the description of the movie that I read, it mentioned that Lane, the main character, was never religious but throughout the movie she begins to more seriously consider the validity of faith.
Once I Was a Beehive, is the story of Lane Speer, whose pious, nature-loving father dies suddenly of cancer. When her mother remarries a Mormon man, Lane struggles with the change and the crushing feelings of loss in both the death of her father and the new direction of her mother. But when Lane meets her new cousin Phoebe, who suffers from anxiety, she decides to attend a summer camp for the girls of Phoebe’s Mormon church to help the anti-social girl come out of her shell. At the camp, the girls must work together to build their teepees, navigate the wilderness and complete the annual “Trial of Faith.”
I have to say that, although the film had that distinctly ABC-Family vibe (you know, the teenage dramatics and the heavy-handedness in saying exactly what lessons were and should be learned from this movie), I really enjoyed the way this movie was made. I’m not usually one for internal monologue in movies, and I don’t think it was necessary in some places, but I really enjoyed it in this movie (especially when all of the girls are singing Jesus-centric camp songs, because these would definitely be my thoughts in that situation.) I was really worried that this movie was secretly seeking to convert non-religious people, like maybe I missed the fact that this was one of those uber-religious Hallmark movies praising the institution of religion.
Once I Was a Beehive walks the line, but manages to remain neutral enough.
The characters ranged from the overly-perky and competitively pious mother-daughter duo to the rebellious camp leader who rides a motorcycle and served in the Vietnam War. One of the main themes in this film focuses on those catty, sometimes brutal girl-girl relationships that form in these situations (or just in school in general.) I could see this trope coming from a mile away, but I think it was an important component to the development of the story, especially considering this was one of the main concerns Phoebe had in simply attending the camp. In the end, the girls come together and form a unique bond and the movie shifts to address the binding power of friendship.
This film really made me regret (yet again) never having that camp experience in my youth. There’s something about that entire environment that seems to just change you in ways no other experience could. Do they have camps like this for adults? Because I would totally go in a heartbeat.
What I found most interesting about this film was the theme of faith. While it is shown more palpably in the form of the church members praying when someone is in danger or solving problems through Bible verses in the “Trial of Faith,” it is deeper in the Lane’s experiences, both physical and mental, throughout her time at camp. Lane is not converted to Mormonism by the end, but she finds her faith in humanity, personal connections and friendship, which all help her to accept the major changes in her life. What I love about this film is that its message: these things that make up Lane’s faith are what religion should be all about. The underlying purpose of religion is to love and do good to one another, but this gets lost under anger and fear perpetuated by corrupt leaders. To me, Once I Was a Beehive encourages us, both religious and not, accept each other and treat them with love, respect and humanity.
While the film did have a few hangups for me, they were minor and overall I enjoyed the film. If you have the time and are looking for an uplifting film on a rainy day, I would recommend this movie, especially for young girls.
What did you think of Once I Was a Beehive? What are your favorite camp memories? Where do you see acceptance and humanity in your life? Let’s talk.