The Secret Life of Bees

October 12, 2011
Every child has a bond thicker than blood with their mother. But at just four years old Lily Owens manages to shatter that bond by accidentally shooting her mother dead. In the film The Secret Life of Bees Lily has to live the rest of her life with questions of her mother’s existence before her tragic death and the guilt of murdering the one person she knew would always love her.

The Secret Life of Bees, set in South Carolina in 1964, is a light hearted film manages to graze the surface of some very harsh situations. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood depicts the uncomfortable coexistence of blacks and whites in the south while making you gradually develop empathy for Lily Owens, who is trying to find her place in life. The film also includes a powerhouse cast of award-winning women. When Lily Owens ran away from her abusive father with her black caretaker Rosaleen, they end up under the care of August Boatwright (Queen Latifah). August Boatwright welcomed both Lily and Rosaleen wholeheartedly. She was never one to turn away those who needed help. June Boatwright (Alicia Keys) is the no-nonsense sister. She has a stone cold exterior and doesn’t seem like she cares much about anyone else’s feelings or problems. However, under her hard shell, June is hiding her own hardships. May Boatwright (Sophie Okenedo) is a caring, mothering but extremely fragile soul. She is soft spoken and is pleased by childish things. Rosaleen may be the black caretaker for a white child but she is far from a stereotype. For a black woman with little rights she is outspoken and unapologetic for her actions that somehow seem to offend white people. Lily is fiery, goes after what she wants and won’t take no for an answer.

Although beekeeping is a successful occupation in this film it also serves as an escape mechanism from all the household tension, painful memories of the past, unanswered questions, the uncertainty of the future and the injustice being served by society. All of these things sit heavy on the hearts of different characters. However, the simple peaceful setting and the distraction of the beekeeping almost make it hard for you to actually dwell on the more serious aspects of the movie. The warm, sunny, southern afternoons accompanied by light music make you smile and wish the characters the best.

The film and the cast are nothing short of a masterpiece, winning a Black Reel, Hollywood Film, People’s Choice and an NAACP Award. The Secret Life of Bees has a sly storyline. Going along with the title, the director actually wants you to think the movie is just about how beekeeping seemingly keeps most of the characters at peace. However, what she is trying to have you recognize are the injustices taking place in society during that time period. She also wants you to see that although the women in this film try to remain strong, they are all vulnerable. So although the movie is more of a drama the historical aspects are there and need to be taken into account. This movie forces you to draw conclusions and think for yourself. Nothing is ever as simple or straightforward as it seems; there’s almost always a catch. The Secret Life of Bees was carefully crafted to be one of those things.

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