The latest Mormon feel-good movie, “Once I Was a Beehive,” is proving to be enjoyable for moviegoers both in and outside Mormon culture.
The film tells the story of Lane Speer (Paris Warner), a 16-year-old girl whose father dies and mother remarries a Mormon. Speer goes on a week long, Bible-themed camping trip with other Mormon young women while her mom and stepdad are on their honeymoon.
The film was released in select Utah theaters on Aug. 14.
“We have been totally flattered and over the moon at the reception,” film director and writer Maclain Nelson said. “We knew we had something special, but to see people really grasp to the story, people who are going to see it for a second or third time, as a filmmaker that feels amazing.”
Nelson is a 2003 BYU graduate who studied acting with a background mostly in comedy. He is known for his role in the LDS film “The Saratov Approach.”
Outside of the Mormon community, “Once I Was a Beehive” is getting good reviews as well. The Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake City Weekly both praised the film, with Salt Lake City Weekly saying that it’s hard not to smile while watching it. The average audience rating reported on online movie and TV aggregator Rotten Tomatoes is 4.2 out or 5, or around 84 percent.
Nelson and actors are pleased with the reactions from people of different faiths.
“I knew people would like it in the LDS community but non-Mormons are liking it as well,” Nelson said. “It’s the best-reviewed LDS film in over a decade.”
Lisa Clark, a 1995 BYU graduate and Nelson’s colleague, was a script consultant for the movie and plays the role of the Young Women’s President, Carrie Carrington.
“It’s having the reaction I hoped it would,” Clark said. “It’s accessible, (it’s) just a good story. We’re not that different from people of other faiths. There is a spirit of us who are Mormons that just wants to include you and it’s genuine.”
BYU student Scooter Page took her 13-year-old Beehive sister to see the film but was not expecting to enjoy it herself.
“Both of us had a lot of fun,” Page said. “I would actually recommend it to friends of different faiths. There was a nice balance of humor and touching moments. There was one scene that I just thought was hysterical, and then there would be touching moments. I cry in everything, so I cried in this more than I should probably admit.”
One emotional scene in the film is the testimony meeting. Clark said she felt a very maternal connection with the girls and always wanted to make sure they were well fed and well rested. When they filmed the testimony scene, she said she looked around the campfire and felt such love for the girls.
“It was a sweet, tender moment that you don’t get on a lot of film sets,” Clark said. “I think it translated over to the screen which is very satisfying.”
The film is told from the point of view of 16-year-old Speer. Nelson’s wife is not LDS, and the idea of having a nonmember’s perspective came from her.
“It’s giving us the chance to cross over to others not of our faith,” Nelson said. “A non-Mormon who sees this can see where we’re coming from in a lighthearted, comedic way.”
The film will be released in Idaho and Hawaii on Sept. 11 and in Mesa, Arizona on Sept. 18. If it continues to do well in Utah, then the film will extend to other states.
“Once I Was a Beehive” is from the same producers who did “The Saratov Approach.” The success of “The Saratov Approach,” set the stage for support of this film. Likewise, “Once I Was a Beehive” will support other LDS productions from this company in the future.
“This film is equally as mission-driven as financially,” Nelson said. “It’s a message of acceptance and love between people not of the same faith.”