Sunday, January 28, 2007


Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Flora Glass, Max Minghella

"Words may define us, but it's love that connects us"

Star Movies


Bee Season in this film refers to Spelling Bee competitions and not the sort of bees which produce honey. A movie with an existential tone, it deals with a family that strive to connect with each other on a deeper level yet in the process they end up being torn apart from the core.

Eliza Naumann is a gifted young girl who excels at spelling bee contests. She has the ability to see the words dancing in her mind when she closes her eyes to concentrate on its spelling. Her father Saul is a religious studies (Kabbalah) professor, a controlling type who is desperate to connect to a Higher Being as a means to make the world a better place. Aaron is the teenage son struggling with his own religious beliefs. Miriam, (the mother) is on the brink of a nervous breakdown, haunted by a traumatic event from her past. As Eliza progresses through the numerous rounds in the Spelling Bee competition, her father obsessively tutors her to develop her special skills. In the process, he discovers his daughter's mystical ability to communicate at a deeper level with God. A task he himself is unable to cultivate despite his extensive study of the process. His exploration through his daughter makes him lose sight of the more important aspects in his life like his failing marriage and the alienation from his son.

I haven't read the book by Myla Goldberg. I also have no stock knowledge about Kabbalah. Yet somehow it doesn't take much to understand that spirituality plays a big factor in trying to understand the Naumann family. But having said that I wish I read the book so I can have more insights about each character. The film doesn't quite explain certain events. Some subplots are not well defined. We only get bits and pieces of information through sporadic flashbacks. Most of them involve the root cause of Miriam's nervous breakdown and as well as the divine aspect of Kabbalah. But I did like the magical way the letters were shown dancing like a kaleidoscope flashing through the mind of Eliza. She had to spell out words I had never read of, let alone knew existed in the English language. The fluctuating musical score though tends to peak up to deafening decibels whenever some dramatic scene was about to unfold, a minor irritant.

It is uncunning how Flora Glass who portrays Eliza looks like a younger version of Juliette Binoche (Miriam). Her subdued acting was quite ethereal and she was such a delight to watch. Max Minghella (the son of director Anthony Minghella of "The English Patient" fame) did okay as the confused and 'abandoned' son. Juliette Binoche seems to glide through most of her scenes. It is a bit hard to believe that Richard Gere is a Jewish professor because I kept thinking 'Isn't he a Buddhist?". Yet somehow we tend to overlook that fact as his spiritual demeanor made him a very humane character.

Bee Season was a deeply moving film which tells us that winning isn't everything. We don't necessarily need to have everything spelled out for us, sometimes it is best to look beyond words to understand what life is all about.

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