“The Secret Life of Bees”, is a beautiful novel by Sue Monk Kidd, that was brought to life on the big screen Friday October 17, 2008. This highly anticipated film is a wonderful family drama with an all-star cast. With the likes of Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo and Paul Bettany, and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Prince- Bythewood directed one of the greatest love stories known to date, “Love and Basketball” and has continued to give great prestige to her name with this movie. Jada Pinkett-Smith was the executive producer for this film.

This film is set in the 1960’s, in a small South Carolina Town where three sisters live and run a thriving honey company. The sisters are all named after months of the year, August (Queen Latifah), May(Okenodo), and June(Keys). While these sisters live in their own existence, the Civil Rights Movement is going on in the outside world. “It’s like they got their own spot in the world,” Lily’s(Fanning) companion, Rosaleen (Hudson) says of the Boatwright sisters, “where the outside don’t come in.” Lily and Rosaleen are Runaways from a unhappy home-life, who are drawn to the Boatwright family, and upon their arrival to the sister’s pink house, this heart-warming story begins. Lily lost her mother at the age of four and as a result she blames herself for the murder, and her father’s resentment towards her. After Rosaleen has a brutal run-in with the law for simply trying to register to vote, Lily decides it is time to leave their old life behind.

August Boatwright, listens to Lily and Rosaleen’s story about their running away, and decide that they will be staying with them. Queen plays August with such a loving reverence to people, and is the epitome of a strong black woman.  One word describes her character, and that is Love, as she makes it clear that she believes “love is all around you.” She helps uplift Lily’s spirit with her kind words, and caring for her honey bees. August aids in Lily’s understanding towards knowing that a person can be loved no matter what their past holds.  June, however, is more hesitant about providing hospitality for lily and Rosaleen. Alicia Keys plays the role of June beautifully.  The camera is drawn to her defined face to match a very defined character who is not as willing to open her arms with such an eagerness as her sister August. June plays the Cello passionately throughout the film, and despite the many serious tear-jerking scenes in the film, her playing of the cello also sparks an emotional nerve.

May, the emotionally unstable sister, is a very interesting yet warm character that the audience can’t help but to fall in love with. After loosing her twin sister, May substitutes her unrequited love for her sister through carrying the wait of the world by feeling all the pain of the world in a sense.  Okenodo really captured the essence of May Boatwright in her performance. Her acting was superb, and her portrayal of this woman was downright captivating and real. She brought this character to life, and her message in this film resonated deep with me. Dakota Fanning was brilliant as always. For Fanning to be such a young girl, her portrayal of the small yet mature Lily was nothing short of amazing. Lily was a young woman with the soul of a much more mature person who has seen and been through terrible things that most children cannot imagine.  Fanning’s ability to channel emotions such as these are absolutely astounding.  Fanning believes that she was able to play this role so well through knowing Lily’s character so thoroughly. Let’s not forget Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson, whose role delivery was again stunning.  These women all actually became these fictional characters, and gave a performance very much near perfect.

This film is an emotional rollercoaster with themes embedded within the context such as family strength, women empowerment, and most of all the ability to love yourself and others.  “The Secret Life of Bees” is a film that will leave you feeling connected to each character having gained something different from each one.  The Boatwright Family is something like a beehive in itself, with August as the Queen. August is the rock of her family in that she keeps the empowered through endless love and proper lessons of “Bee Etiquette.” You will cry, laugh, even be angry at times, but most of all you will be satisfied. “The Secret Life of Bees” deserves nothing four stars for all-star performances and themes.