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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 18,216 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 »


When Lily and Rosaleen are drinking their Cokes on the grass outside the Boatwright house, you see Rosaleen drink the last of the soda, but you can clearly hear the liquid flowing back into the bottle. See more »


Zach Taylor: Miss August told me about you being here helping out. She didn't mention anything about you being white.
Lily Owens: Maybe she didn't notice.
See more »


Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Anne Hathaway/The Killers (2008) See more »


Come See About Me
Written by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland,
Performed by The Supremes
Courtesy of Motown Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Nutshell Review: The Secret Life of Bees
30 November 2008 | by (Singapore) – See all my reviews

It's been two years since we last saw Dakota Fanning on the big screen here, in a film which was a adaptation of the literary classic Charlotte's Web. And what a career it had been for this child actress, now an adolescent, to have grown from scream queen (no thanks to her stint under Spielberg's War of the Worlds) to one controversial role in Hounddogs, which I doubt would make it to our shores here.

Based on a novel by Sue Monk Kidd and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Secret Life of Bees is one powerful drama above love and the looking for love, as well as running along the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. It's easy to dismiss this as a chick flick because of its predominantly female cast, but that would be a mistake to make in making it an excuse to miss this film altogether. For all its worth, it's chock full of extremely well delivered performances from veterans such as Fanning herself, together with Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson (proving that she's no flash in the pan), Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany and even Alicia Keys!

Set in the time of Summer in 1964 Southern USA where the Civil Rights Act was just signed and in effect, the sentiments amongst the racist bigots still run high in a charged environment still hanging onto their old segregated ways. Fanning's Lily Owens carries the weight of her guilt buried deep in her subconscious from a tragic event that happened when she was four, and ten years later, after receiving the last straw of punishment from her abusive dad (Bettany), runs away with her caretaker Rosaleen (Hudson).

As if led by an invisible hand, they soon find themselves under the extreme goodwill of the Boatwright sisters, who earn a living through the cultivation of bees for honey, and a series of incidents that bring about some tying of loose ends, and the discovery that these strangers do tie back to Lily's own quest to finding out the truth about her mom, to debunk the lies as told by her father. And of course this allows opportunity for some serious girl power bonding between the characters as they find that they have a lot more in common, as well as the sharing and spreading of love through their ranks.

The trump card that this movie has, is the excellent performances by the ensemble cast. Fanning leads the pack and gives a wonderful moving performance as the gangling Lily, who thinks that she's quite a jinx with plenty of bad karma to go around, bringing about unfortunate happenings to her hosts which provide the dramatic twists and turns to what would otherwise be a flat movie. Jennifer Hudson had much to do in the first act, though her character got quite muted by the time the trio of the Boatwright sisters August (Latifah), June (Keys) and Okonedo (May) come along. Queen Latifah brings about some serious gravitas in her role as the eldest with the largest heart, and you cannot deny her chemistry with Fanning. Keys on the other hand plays the sister the exact opposite of August, being aloof and starting off with intense suspicion as to the intent of their guests. And Okonedo's role could probably be the most unorthodox of the lot, a fragile soul who has her own wailing wall to deal with the harsh realities of life.

The Secret Life of Bees is well worth the admission ticket, and you'll be hard pressed not to be touched by the film, or moved by the themes it explores, especially when the third act comes by leading to quite a number of powerful revelations and a solid conclusion. Set against its intended backdrop, it's a reminder of tolerance, which the world lacks these days, and of course it's not always hammering in such heavy themes as it has its fair share of romance as well, and for what it's worth, Fanning has her first on-screen romance in this movie, and if I'm right, has her first on-screen kiss as well.

You might be surprised when I say this, but this film has won me over enough for it to be considered as a contender when I shortlist my list of ten top films of the year. Definitely recommended!

25 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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