The Secret Life of Bees (film)

The Secret Life of Bees is a 2008 American drama film adapted from the 2001 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 Jada Pinkett Smith as the executive producer.

The Secret Life of Bees
Secret life of bees.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGina Prince-Bythewood
Screenplay byGina Prince-Bythewood
Based onThe Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Produced by
CinematographyRogier Stoffers
Edited byTerilyn A. Shropshire
Music byMark Isham
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • October 17, 2008 (2008-10-17) (United States)
  • December 5, 2008 (2008-12-05) (United Kingdom)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$40 million[1]

The Secret Life of Bees is noted for Queen Latifah's critically acclaimed performance as August Boatwright. The film was released in the United States on October 17, 2008, and in the United Kingdom on December 5, 2008.


Lily lives on a peach orchard in South Carolina in 1964. Her father, T. Ray, is now widowed, abusive, and often angry towards his daughter Lily. On Lily's fourteenth birthday, as the harvest is beginning, 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.

When Lily runs away, her housekeeper Rosaleen goes with her. Lily is white and naively confident; Rosaleen is African American, in her 20s, politically aware, and proud. Rosaleen is beaten up by three racists and ends up in the hospital. Lily, after an argument with her father, helps Rosaleen escape from the hospital. Lily has but a few hoarded mementos of her mother, who has been dead almost 10 years. One is a label: "Black Madonna Honey", Tiburon, S.C., and so Tiburon becomes their destination.

It takes two days for Lily and Rosaleen to 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 with an outstretched arm.

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

In time Lily confides in Zach, the teenage son of one member in the prayer group and August's assistant beekeeper. Lily and Zach try to watch a movie together, but their disregard for racial barriers, sitting with Zach in the "colored" section, gets Zach kidnapped and assaulted. June and August hide the news from May to try and protect her, but Zach's mother unknowingly reveals the news to her. Out of grief, May drowns herself to escape the pain of feeling the world's hatred, even though she leaves a note saying that she knows Zach will be returned alive, which happens the next day.

With May's funeral comes some reconciliation and truth. 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 seen in flashbacks, now blames herself for Zach's kidnapping and May's death. Lily smashes several jars of honey, feeling unloved and unlovable. Before Lily leaves, August challenges her outlook, and tells Lily about her mother, whom August cared for as a child in Virginia and later sheltered from the abuse of T. Ray.

Meanwhile, T. Ray has figured out where Lily is located. T. Ray finds pin holes in her bedroom wall where a map had been. He eventually comes to take Lily home with him. However, Lily refuses to leave and the three women form a phalanx of support. T. Ray admits that Lily's mother did come back for her, and that he had lied because her mother had not come back for him. With angry reluctance, T. Ray leaves her to be raised on the Boatwright orchard.



Early in the film's development, David Gordon Green was set to 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 The 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 the film was not released as an album.


Critical responseEdit

Rotten Tomatoes reported the film has an approval of 59% based on 139 reviews, with an average rating of 5.94/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "The Secret Life of Bees has charm, but is largely too maudlin and sticky-sweet."[5] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Writing in The New York Times, reviewer A. O. Scott thought the film to be "a familiar and tired fable".[8] Roger Ebert found the film "enchanting" and gave it 3.5/4 stars.[9]

Box officeEdit

The film was No. 3 at the North American box office for its opening weekend with $10.5 million. It later went on to gross $40 million worldwide.[1]


The movie won the awards for "Favorite Movie Drama" and "Favorite Independent Movie" at the 35th People's Choice Awards.[10]

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 2021-05-04.
  6. ^ "The Secret Life is Bees reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  7. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Secret Life of Bees" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  8. ^ "A Golden Dollop of Motherly Comfort". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 15, 2008). "The Secret Life of Bees".
  10. ^ "'Dark Knight,' Ellen are People's Choice".

External linksEdit