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The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  17 October 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 18,184 users   Metascore: 57/100
Reviews: 54 user | 108 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with ... See full summary »


(screenplay), (novel)
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12 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Renee Ford Clark ...
Doll (as Renée Clark)
Violet (as Sharon Morris)
Sugar Girl
Emma Sage Bowman ...


Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father T-Ray, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Bring Your Girlfriends, Sisters, Mothers and Daughters



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 October 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Vida Secreta das Abelhas  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$10,527,799 (USA) (17 October 2008)


$37,766,350 (USA) (20 February 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(director's cut) |

Sound Mix:

| (as Dolby Stereo)|


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jennifer Hudson said in an interview that director Gina Prince-Bythewood had sent her to a store to get several items and while she was there, the staff and the customers verbally and racially abused her. The incident was, in fact staged by actors under Bythewood's direction in order for Hudson to get the feel of a racially tense environment, the time and setting of the film, and to help her with her characterization. See more »


The action in the movie took place in July, 1964. When we first meet Zach, he is singing The Four Tops' "Baby, I Need Your Loving," which was not released until August 15, 1964. A few scenes later, the characters are listening to The Supremes' "Come See About Me," which was not released until November, 1964. See more »


Lily Owens: [to T. Ray] My whole life has been nothing but a hole, where my mother should have been. It always left me aching, but I never thought about what it did to you.
See more »


Featured in The 14th Annual Critics' Choice Awards (2009) See more »


Hippy Hippy Shake
Written by Chan Romero (as Robert L. Romero)
Performed by The Swinging Blue Jeans
Courtesy of EMI Records Ltd.
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Sorry Seinfeld ... the Real Bee Movie
27 October 2008 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Having not read Sue Monk Kidd's novel, I was expecting a sappy, soulless, chick flick that would have me rolling my eyes for a couple of hours. Instead, director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) delivers a very engaging film with a message and some very strong performances.

Dakota Fanning plays Lily, who accidentally killed her mother at four, and has since lived with her white trash, redneck despicable father (Paul Bettany). Lily and her nanny Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) runoff to some small town dot on a map thanks to a clue Lily's mom left on one of her few remaining personal items. They arrive at the home/business of August, June and May Boatright (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sopie Okonedo) who harvest and bottle the best honey in town. What follows is a smörgåsbord of odd family life that slowly gives hope to young Lily.

Based in 1964, the film dips its toe into the Civil Rights Act and the ongoing racism of the south, but focuses more on the strength of love and family ... even in a Pepto Bismol home! The performances are all very strong but three standouts are Dakota Fanning, Paul Bettany and Sophie Okonedo.

Ms. Fanning is now 14 years old and she delivers a remarkable performance ... and what feels like the first where her screaming skills aren't overused (War of the Worlds, Man on Fire). She strikes me as a young Jodie Foster ... one who has just transitioned from child actor to real actress. I can't wait to see where her career takes her. Mr. Bettany is such a shock here as he typically plays a well dressed, under-spoken Brit (which is what he is in real life!). As a southern redneck whose bitterness rages against the world, he not only pulls it off, but manages to make grits seem even worse than I previously thought. Ms. Okonedo (so amazing in Hotel Rwanda) pulls off the always difficult task of making a "special" adult seem very real and vital. A most touching performance from a top notch talent.

This is a good story with strong performances, though to take the next step as a film, it needed to dig a little deeper into its wide range of characters and settings. Still, definitely worth seeing.

51 of 57 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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