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The Secret Life of Bees (2008)



Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 136
Fresh: 79 | Rotten: 57

The Secret Life of Bees has moments of charm, but is largely too maudlin and sticky-sweet.


Average Rating: 6/10
Critic Reviews: 35
Fresh: 22 | Rotten: 13

The Secret Life of Bees has moments of charm, but is largely too maudlin and sticky-sweet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 111,330

My Rating

Movie Info

Set in South Carolina in 1964, the film is the moving 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, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only 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, honey and the Black Madonna.


Drama, Action & Adventure

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Feb 3, 2009


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January 8, 2009:
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All Critics (138) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (79) | Rotten (57) | DVD (2)

There's a purity, clarity and honesty to this feminist heart-warmer's melodramatic instincts that make it surprisingly moving and satisfying.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The filmmakers give Latifah and Fanning room to create characters that breathe in the sweet smell of clover and breathe out the contented sigh of independence.

October 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sweat and good intentions, however, will take you only so far. And they take Bees right up to the threshold of entertaining%u2014but not one step further.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The honey runs thick in The Secret Life of Bees, and so does the treacle.

October 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's hard to roll your eyes when they're full of tears.

October 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is full of sweet, subtle touches.

October 17, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comment (1)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

All the pieces are there for a good movie but there's an undeniable sense of reluctance to put them into play. Every time it seems like the film might be taking a chance it retreats to safe ground.

April 1, 2011 Full Review Source:

A sweet, sentimental story with a sting in the tail.

January 3, 2011 Full Review Source:

Can I tell you a secret? This movie is *really* good. Grab Nana and go see it!

August 3, 2009 Full Review Source: 3BlackChicks Review
3BlackChicks Review

Bees is almost too sweet, but with enduring enough performances to make a solid movie.

July 6, 2009 Full Review Source:

(...) Hay un mérito atendible en la directora y es evitar caer en la sensiblería barata que el asunto arriesgaba.

May 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

The story is a gentle depiction of harsh times that works best as a coming-of-age parable, not so well as a historical drama.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: MovieTime, ABC Radio National
MovieTime, ABC Radio National

Once again, Dakota Fanning demonstrates that, even as a teenager, she already has the acting skills and range equal to -- if not better than -- her A-list contemporaries.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

Glossy yet ultimately shallow, this platitudinous, unconvincing drama makes The Colour Purple look like Mississippi Burning.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

On most levels the film, which has a surprising number of unconvincing details, takes the sugary option; it shies away from the harsher realities whenever possible.

March 6, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies (Australia)
At the Movies (Australia)

A dense story about a little girl and the impact her mother's death has on her makes terrific cinema in this beautifully realised film

February 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The film has a dream-like quality above its punchy emotional core

February 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The Secret Life of Bees features another buzz-worthy turn by Dakota Fanning.

January 28, 2009 Full Review Source: Donne Tempo
Donne Tempo

The source material remains affecting and the cast work hard to add dimension to a lacklustre screenplay. But sadly, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Fanning and Latifah form the proficient core of this reliable if humdrum American period drama.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

Tragedies strike and life lessons are learnt, homespun wisdom is dispensed. It's simplistic to the point of total idiocy.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Times [UK] | Comment (1)
Times [UK]

This fairytale of the civil rights era is all honey and no sting.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

It's generous-minded, and though it labours awkwardly to move you, that doesn't mean you won't be moved.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

From the producer of X-Men... comes the dullest, gooiest chick-flick of the year.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

It'll be way too cloying for most - but the, ahem, bee's knees for sugar fiends. Probably best enjoyed with a glass of Chardonnay and your cynicism on hold.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Audience Reviews for The Secret Life of Bees

"The Sweet Life of Bees is a film of sad stories with sad situations. I really enjoyed everyones acting. I had my doubts about Alicia Keys as I do all singers/rappers when they try their hand at acting. She surprised me. I thought she did a great job in her role. I loved Q-Latifah in this. Her character is wise and loving. Just what Lily needed.
Lily Owens is a troubled young girl in the search for answers about her mother. Feeling unwanted and abandoned she runs with the one person that shows her kindness and love. Her nanny/housekeeper Rosaleen. Their journey leads to August. From there the mystery of what happened to Lily's mother unravels.
I really enjoyed the sad tale and I look forward to reading the book."
October 15, 2012

Super Reviewer

When you come across a film poster flaunting a smile across every included face, there's a 98% chance it's another "feel-good" flick about to hit cinemas. Save for a few exceptions that have backed away from the tiresome archetypes (i.e. JERRY MAGUIRE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), rarely is this a good sign. I often feel worried that the film's crew thinks its key audience is full of idiots who cannot even mildly identify the recurring thematic formula: identify the problem in the story, gradually evolve from saddening to joyful, relieve the audience's emotions with a scene that will guarantee a good cry, then all of a sudden end on a severely optimistic note. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES is a film harrowed in majority not because it plays out as such a film, but because it offers nothing new, or nothing noticeably original, for that matter. The film isn't terrible, due to some select bright spots and a solid performance from Queen Latifah-may I add that this gets my vote for her best performance since CHICAGO. Aside from those who watch films for that ultimate catharsis, it's not particularly engaging.

read the rest of the review at
August 21, 2012

Super Reviewer

Complete and utter feel good Oprah trash.
April 30, 2011

Super Reviewer

Good movie, sad, but not totally depressing. The whole cast are excellent, particularly Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. I am not sure I would have wanted to go to the movies and see this one, but as a DVD movie, no complaints.
December 23, 2009

Super Reviewer

    1. August Boatwright: That was May's doing. When we went to the paint shop, she latched on to a color called, "Caribbean Pink." She said it made her feel like dancing a Spanish Flamenco. I personally thought it was the tackiest color I had ever seen, but I figured if it could lift May's heart, it was good enough to live in.
    – Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
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