Friday, October 24, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

So, my daughter Jessie read the book and my wife wanted to see the movie. I generally try to avoid movies that I know right up front are going to make me cry, but I didn’t know anything about this movie. So, I agreed to see it. After the first two minutes, I knew I was not going to get out of this movie without some emotion. When it was all said and done, I have to say that my first thought was, “Sometimes I hate being a white man!” In a movie that deals well with racial tensions of the early sixties, southern white men are not generally portrayed well. However, there are a couple of moments in the movie where white men do challenge the predominate views of the day and time and cross the invisible line that kept blacks and whites separate. As I reflected on this aspect of the movie, I thought about the confederate flag I saw waving high by the side of the interstate today and I thought, “We haven’t come very far in forty years.” Of course evidence that things are better is everywhere, but the dream of racial equality and peaceful co-existence still has a way to be achieved.

In other reflections on this masterful film, one has to look at the way that each character deals with connection, vulnerability, emotional intimacy, pain, loss, and guilt. Each character carries within themselves a different experience – a different set of fears, joys, and hurts. Throughout the movie, each of the characters attempts to balance his or her own fears with care and connection with others. Some characters cannot do it, while others seem to be able to do it effortlessly. “There is no perfect love” is just one quote that is lived out perfectly in the movie. People laugh and cry together. They reach out to each other and hide from each other. They connect and withdraw. It is the nature of human attachment. We love as well as we can, but we love imperfectly.

If you don’t know the story and don’t want to know the story – Stop reading now. This story is of a 14 year-old girl named Lilly who accidentally shot her mother when she was 5, while her parents were fighting. At 14 she lives with her father and works in his peach stand on their peach farm. Her father is distant and harsh to Lilly. Lilly does not have the love of a mother and is rejected by her father. She has a friend in their black housekeeper, Rosaleen. When Rosaleen is arrested (after a disturbing scene and a gross miscarriage of justice) Lilly takes Rosaleen with her to run away. In series of coincidental (or providential) events, the two girls arrive at the home of the Boatwright sisters – a trio of sisters that have a family honey farm. The remainder of the movie is about the relationship that grows between the new arrivals on the farm and the relationship between the sisters. In the end dad makes one last return to retrieve Lilly, but what happens then – you will have see the movie to know. Suffice it to say, that love and acceptance are always healing and even when we lack the love we feel we should have from parents, we are not without the capability of being loved.

The religious references are vague and ambiguous and tend more towards goddess worship than Christianity, but the references to faith are not without merit. There are strong messages of the power of love, the art of care, the dance of intimate connection, and the power of relationship. There are themes of forgiveness, unconditional love, and the power of God in each of us that calls us and encourages us we seek to be all that we are created to be.

So, yeah, I cried. (Most of you know it is not a difficult job to accomplish that though.) It has its moments of deep sadness and overwhelming heaviness, but it accompanied by moments of laughter, love, and joy. Pretty much just like life.