The Secret Life of Bees (film)

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The Secret Life of bees
Secret life of bees.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGina Prince-Bythewood
Produced byLauren Shuler Donner
James Lassiter
Will Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith (executive)
Joe Pichirallo
Screenplay byGina Prince-Bythewood
Based onThe Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Music byMark Isham
CinematographyRogier Stoffers
Edited byTerilyn A. Shropshire
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • October 17, 2008 (2008-10-17)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$39.9 million[1]

The Secret Life of Bees is a 2008 American drama film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Sue Monk Kidd. The film was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Will Smith, with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, as executive producer. The film is noted for Queen Latifah's critically acclaimed performance as August Boatwright. The film was released in North America on October 17, 2008, and in the United Kingdom on December 5, 2008.


Lily Owens lives on a peach orchard, in South Carolina in 1964. Her father T. Ray is widowed, abusive, and often angry with her. On her 14th birthday, the harvest is starting, societal and personal unrest consumes her life, and a string of events, a mix of mystical, terrifying, and unjust, pushes her to run away to find a better life.

With Lily goes Rosaleen, their housekeeper. Lily is white and naively confident; Rosaleen is African American, in her 20s, politically aware, and proud. Rosaleen was beaten up by 3 racists and ended up in police custody as well as in the hospital. Lily later, after having an argument with her father, helps Rosaleen escape from the hospital. Lily has but a few hoarded mementos of her mother, dead almost 10 years. One is a label: "Black Madonna Honey", Tiburon, S.C., and Tiburon becomes their destination.

In two days they reach Tiburon and find their way to the home of August Boatwright and her sisters May and June. August has used her skills as a beekeeper to build a successful business. She has also built a strong community of black women who gather regularly in prayer, overseen by a life-sized statue of a black woman whose arm reaches out in blessing.

Despite the unlikeliness of Lily's lies about their circumstances, August takes them in, in trade for labor. Lily becomes an apprentice beekeeper. She discovers May's “wailing wall”, tucked full of little notes about events that have distressed the brittle sensitive May, and she learns about the "Black Mary" in the living room.

In time Lily confides her truths in Zach, the teenage son of one member of the prayer group and August's assistant beekeeper. They try to watch a movie together, but her disregard for racial barriers, sitting with Zach in the "colored" section, gets Zach kidnapped and roughed up, and Lily yelled at. To protect May, June and August hide the news, but Zach's mother cannot, and the event breaks May. Though Zach is returned the next day, it is too late for May who in pain has drowned herself.

With May's funeral comes some reconciliations and truths. June, strong and proud, agrees to wed her long-time boyfriend. Rosaleen is asked to be part of the household family. Lily, who already believes she probably killed her mother, as we see in flashbacks, now blames herself for Zach's kidnapping and May's death. She smashes several jars of honey and packs her things to run away, unloved and unlovable.

Before she runs, August challenges Lily's outlook, and tells her about Lily's mother, whom August cared for as a child and later sheltered from T. Ray. Meanwhile, T. Ray has figured out where she was from a map in her room, and comes to take her home with him. Lily does not want to leave, especially with him, and the three women form a phalanx of support. T. Ray admits that her mother did come back for her, and he had lied because she had not wanted him. With angry reluctance, he leaves her to be raised on the Boatwright farm.

The film closes with an older Lily narrating as she tucks a journal of the story into May's wall.



Early in development, David Gordon Green was going to the direct the film and Focus Features was going to distribute it.[2]

Production began on January 7, 2008, in Lumberton, North Carolina, and Watha, North Carolina.[3] and ended a few months later. The film was screened in September 2008 at the 33rd Annual Toronto International Film Festival, and had an October 17, 2008, theatrical release.[4]


Original music for The Secret Life of Bees was produced by Mark Isham.

The film features the following songs:

  1. "Baby, I Need Your Loving" by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr.
  2. "Come See About Me" by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr.
  3. "Prelude (From The Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 In G Major)" by Johann Sebastian Bach
  4. "Six Canonic Sonatas Op. 5" by Georg Philipp Telemann
  5. "Sonata No. 3 In a Minor For Cello & Continuo: Allegro" by Antonio Vivaldi
  6. "The Honey Song" by Sue Monk Kidd
  7. "Beautiful" by India.Arie
  8. "Breakaway" by Irma Thomas
  9. "Come See About Me" by The Supremes
  10. "Doncha Know (Sky Is Blue)" by Alicia Keys
  11. "Heaven's My Home" by Sam & Ruby
  12. "Hippy Hippy Shake" by Swinging Blue Jeans
  13. "I'm Alright" by Little Anthony and the Imperials
  14. "It's All Right" by The Impressions
  15. "Keep Marching" by Raphael Saadiq
  16. "Mary" by Joe Purdy
  17. "Song for Mia" by Lizz Wright

The soundtrack for was not released as an album.


Critical response[edit]

The Secret Life of Bees received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 59% based on 138 reviews, with the consensus "The Secret Life of Bees has charm, but is largely too maudlin and sticky-sweet." [5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A" on scale of A to F.[6]

Writing in The New York Times, reviewer A. O. Scott thought the film to be "a familiar and tired fable".[7] Roger Ebert found it "enchanting".[8]

Box office[edit]

The movie was No. 3 at the North American box office for its opening weekend with $10.5 million. As of December 13, 2008, the film has made $39.9 million worldwide.[1]


The movie won the awards for "Favorite Movie Drama" and "Favorite Independent Movie" at the 35th People's Choice Awards.[9]

The film received seven NAACP Image Award nominations, which include Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning), Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture (Nate Parker), and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, and Sophie Okonedo). The movie won the Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture.


  1. ^ a b c "The Secret Life of Bees". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved February 7, 2010.
  2. ^ Rooney, David (13 May 2004). "Green takes novel route". Variety. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2001-12-15. Retrieved 2008-06-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Dakota Fanning Interview, PUSH",
  5. ^ "The Secret Life of Bees". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
  6. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  7. ^ "A Golden Dollop of Motherly Comfort". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 15, 2008). "The Secret Life of Bees".
  9. ^ "'Dark Knight,' Ellen are People's Choice".

External links[edit]