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Movie Review – The Secret Life of Bees

January 19, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The Secret Life of Bees is based on a much beloved novel by the author Sue Monk Kidd. I had never read the book and so I sat down to watch this film without any specific knowledge of its subject matter. Sometimes that’s a good thing. I believe that’s the case here.

If someone had given me the basic plot points of the book/film, I may not have been anxious to see it. That would have been my loss. I think this is a film worth seeing and here’s why.

The Secret Life of Bees took me into a world very different than my own – South Carolina in the mid-sixties. Now that you know that, certain images probably come to mind – small towns, a simpler, more traditional time and racism.  But that’s just the time and place in which this story is set. It’s the people that fill that period of time that make this a place you’d like to visit.

At the heart of the story are two characters: Lily Owens, played by Dakota Fanning and Rosaleen Daise, portrayed by Jennifer Hudson. Lily is an adolescent girl who is the only child in a cold, unloving household. Her mother died tragically when she was young and her father is an abusive war veteran. Lily’s only friend is her carekeeper, Rosaleen.

On a trip into town, Rosaleen and Lily are caught up in an act of racial violence which leaves Rosaleen in the hospital and in trouble with the law. This traumatic event leaves Lily feeling more desperate and alone than ever before. It is a life-changing moment for them both, and it leads them on a journey away from their harsh reality and in search of a better place.

They depart in search of spot called Tiburon, South Carolina. Why Tiburon? Because Lily’s only picture of her mother was taken in that distant town. Lily doesn’t know why the picture was taken there. She just has a deep seeded feeling that she needs to go there to find some answers about her mother and what really led to her tragic end.

Once in Tiburon, Lily and Rosaleen find themselves the unlikely boarders at the home of a kindly honey-maker named August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) and her eccentric sisters. There, Lily and Rosaleen are exposed to a completely different world. It’s a place where “love is all around” them. But sadly, as we all know, love doesn’t cure all of life’s ills. And that’s all I’ll say about that!

I recommend seeing this film for several reasons: 1) The performances – Dakota Fanning and Queen Lafitah are particularly good. 2) It’s an interesting world to visit. I didn’t know much about beekeeping and honey making. Now, I do. 3) The film is filled with constructive messages for older children and adults alike. 4) The filmmakers don’t shy away from the sadness that life can bring. There’s a certain realism here that is often absent in more conventional “coming of age” films.

The Secret Life of Bees is rated PG-13 for some intense situations relating to racism, domestic abuse and a few instances of profanity. I think it’s a particularly good film for parents to discuss with their older children and teenagers. How many films can you say that about?

On February 3rd, The Secret Life of Bees will be released on DVD. It will contain extra features which should further enrich the viewing experience. One other advantage of seeing this film is that it may encourage certain younger viewers (and perhaps older ones too) to read the book on which it’s based. That, in and of itself, would be a healthy offshoot of seeing this film.

If you’ve seen The Secret Life of Bees, I’d love to know what you thought of it. Please drop me a line and share your P.O.V.

Be well!


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2 Comments & Updates to “Movie Review – The Secret Life of Bees”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Sounds good. I knew something about bees :-), when I was little, my parents had to travel around with a truck of bees. The bees need flowers, some places are good in the Spring, and other places are good in the Winter.

  2. JP Says:

    Sounds like an interesting childhood, Kevin.

    I know that the taste of honey can vary quite dramatically, based on the types of flowers that the bees pollinate.

    Several years ago I traveled to Canada to visit an herbal product manufacturer. Some of their echinacea products contained honey. The only honey they would use in those products came from bees that pollinated echinacea flowers.

    It’s a fascinating world!

    Be well!


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