THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (A-3,
PG-13): Lily Owens (Dakota
Fanning) struggles to have a
relationship with her abusive father, T.
Ray (Paul Bettany). He holds a grudge
against the girl because of her mother’s
death years earlier.
They live in rural South Carolina
during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.
Lily treasures her mother’s mementos,
including a label that has an
image of a Black Madonna.
Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) is
the housekeeper who befriends
Lily after the girl’s father punishes
her for a minor infraction.
When Rosaleen goes to town to
register to vote, a group of white
men harass her. Rosaleen and Lily
flee to a nearby town, where Lily
discovers bottles of honey that
have labels showing the Black
When Rosaleen and Lily are
told the nearby Boatwright sisters
produce the honey, they head
to their home. In addition to
being beekeepers, August (Queen Latifah),
June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie
Okonedo) Boatwright are also the keepers
of an 18th-century figurehead of a
August explains to Lily and Rosaleen
that the statue was thought to be
Mother Mary, who understood suffering
and would stand with the persecuted.
The Boatwright sisters preside
over gatherings of local women who
pray the Rosary. They long for the day
when their human and civil rights are
Lily and Rosaleen become part of
the Boatwright family. August teaches
Lily how to care for the bees, to love
them because every little thing needs
love. August also provides the link to
Lily’s mother and the love for which the
girl has been searching.
This beautiful adaptation of the delicate
and spiritually rich novel by Sue
Monk Kidd is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball). The
Marian theology of the film recalls biblical
themes suggested by the Magnificat
(Luke 1:46-55) and provides a subtle
subtext that relates to family and race,
social and cultural tensions and the
issues of the Civil Rights era as well as
those that mark today’s era.
The ensemble performances are
strong, but Dakota Fanning and Queen
Latifah shine. Their acting never plays
to sentiment but reveals maturity and
intelligence. Hums with light and inspiration;
suicide, violence and problem language.
CHANGELING (A-3, R): In European folklore
a changeling is a fairy child or elf
left to take the place of a human child.
In Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood’s
atmospheric historical film
about crime and children (see Mystic
River, A Perfect World), the title would
seem to indicate that a changeling is the
focus of the story. But the heroine is single
parent Christine Collins, played
with great depth and intensity by
In 1928, Christine comes home
from her job as a Los Angeles telephone
supervisor to find that her
nine-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin
Griffith), has disappeared. She
searches the neighborhood and
then calls the police. Thus starts
a string of criminal actions on
the part of the Los Angeles police,
then known as the most violent
police department in the country,
who will do anything to look
competent and avoid embarrassment.
They intimidate Christine into
accepting an imposter child as
her own. When she goes public
with complaints, the police incarcerate
her in a mental hospital to shut her
up. A Presbyterian minister (John
Malkovich) gets involved in exposing
This chilling true-crime story inspires
as it breaks your heart, even if the characters
are not as developed as with conventional
crime films. The strength of
this film lies in its originality and nonformulaic
approach to standard police
It turns out that Walter was one of at
least 20 boys who disappeared around
Los Angeles at the time, revealing one
of the most heartbreaking crimes in
U.S. history. How this happens and how
the story concludes are a cinematic experience
that never loses the audience.
Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski
(Babylon 5) researched the story for
months, changing some details for
sense and time. Themes about the abuse of power prevail, including the death
penalty and who defines mental illness.
Clint Eastwood proves once again
that he is one of America’s greatest
directors in this rare and memorable
showcase about a mother’s love for her
child. Some rough language.
PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL (not yet
rated): In 2003, Liberian warlord-turned-dictator Charles Taylor drove
his country into terror as it joined the
civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
This created an army of rebels who
revolted against Taylor’s government.
Confronted with the loss of their
children as soldiers for both government
and rebel armies, the mass killings
and the horrific attacks on girls and
women, Christian and Muslim women
joined together to take a stand against
war and brutality. Thus began months
of patience, perseverance, fear and
courage in the face of terror.
The women refused to take it anymore
and began a nonviolent protest.
They sat with signs along the main
road for months. In 2003, U.N. peacekeeping
forces entered the country.
During peace talks in 2007, the
women traveled to Ghana from Monrovia,
Liberia’s capital, and forced
African leaders to talk. The women
refused to leave until a peace deal was
Charles Taylor was forced into exile
in Nigeria. Free elections followed and
Liberia’s first woman president, Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf, was elected.
This gentle and brave documentary,
directed by Gini Reticker and produced
by Abigail Disney, celebrates spirits of
steel as women put aside their religious
differences to work nonviolently for
peace for all. Nobel Peace Prize winner
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said
this film “is inspiring, uplifting and a
call to action for all of us.”
INSIDE DARKNESS This 35-minute film by Dominican
priest Dominic DeLay (Mud
Puddle Films) focuses on three U.S.
presidential candidates who are held
prisoner in a room where the walls are
closing in. They are forced to confront
their inner selves and the extent to
which they will go for their country.
The unanswered questions are evocative.
An excellent film for considering
character and themes of Catholic social
teaching. Available with a guide from
ADOPTION (Hallmark Channel):
In honor of November
as National Adoption Month,
Hallmark Channel is relaunching this
touching and inspiring series. All previous
episodes are on the Internet at
warm, emotional series has a strong
B.K. (bring Kleenex) rating.
RUBY (Sundays, Style Network):
Ruby Gettinger, a Sunday
school teacher in Savannah,
Georgia, receives a death sentence from
her doctors when her weight passes
Obese from the age of 13, she is faced
with changing her life while dealing
with the disapproval of strangers and
the often enabling love of relatives and
friends who care. Ruby is an unscripted
reality show with a spiritual theme
that will air for only nine episodes. An
online microsite (www.mystyle.com/ruby) will follow Ruby’s journey with
blogs and vlogs (video blogs). Thoughtful