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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 18,021 users   Metascore: 57/100
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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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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?


Alicia Keys learned to play the cello in 4 weeks for this part. See more »


The story takes place in 1964. Throughout the story, June wears a silk-screen NAACP t-shirt. Silk-screened t-shirts did not exist until the issuance of a patent for the garment screen printing machine in 1969. See more »


Rosaleen Daise: I know you can't understand. Apologizing to those men would have just been a different way of dying. Except I had to live with it
See more »


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


Written by India Arie, Kerisha Hicks and Blue Miller
Performed by India Arie
Courtesy of Motown Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Solid film...
14 September 2008 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

I caught an exclusive screening of this film a week back and I must say, it might be the best film featuring a mostly black cast since "Antwone Fisher." The story centers around Lily (Dakota Fanning), a poor, lonely little girl in the deep south, who deals with a tragic past and a miserable, cruel father (Paul Bettany). Her life revolves around dreams of being every bit like her deceased mother and her relationship with her caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson).

In the midst of the civil rights movement, Rosaleen finds herself in some trouble with the locals, inspiring Lily to flee with her to a South Carolina town that she believes holds the secret to her mother's past. In this town, they find refuge with the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), who take them in on the strength of a story concocted by Lily. Through their cultured world, filled with beekeeping, a lucrative honey business, religious beliefs and love, Lily finds the security she has longed for and finds the answers to questions that haunted her for years.

The director (Prince-Brythewood) did a great job at making us care about the characters, even the miserable father played excellently by Paul Bettany. Alicia Keys shows that some R&B singers can actually perform well in a movie, playing the snooty June Boatwright. However, the best performances has to be between Fanning and Okonedo, who played the gentle, simple minded, manic depressive May Boatwright. If Okonedo reminded me less of Thandie Newton's character in "Beloved," I would've predicted an Oscar nomination depending on this year's competition. Maybe there's one in store for Bettany? Its all left to be seen.

The film has its flaws. It dragged for a good portion of the first thirty minutes as we watch Lily and Rosaleen mill about, doing mundane things in their pitiful lives. But then it really picks up when they meet the Boatwright sisters. The characters were balancing on a thin line between empathetic and sympathetic. You never want to be in the latter. And the filmmakers couldn't resist being a bit schmaltzy on occasion, making most of it play like a good after school special with nothing beyond two dimensionality. And my biggest problem with the film... anti-climatic.

Overall, its a solid film and definitely worth the time in seeing.

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