Bee Season buzzes with family drama, search for faith

Bee Season is the perfect choice for moviegoers who enjoy great stories told with diverse and human characters.

Even though its title might seem out of place toward the beginning, it begins to make sense when the film’s primary character is introduced. Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) is a mature and intelligent child with an aptitude for winning spelling bees.

Bee season is a phrase used to describe the time of year in which most schools in the United States host their spelling events.

Eliza’s father Saul (Richard Gere) is all too eager to help his daughter succeed in her newly acquired craft. At first glance, Eliza’s family comes off as being all too normal – a supportive teenage brother Aaron (Max Minghella) and a kind, nurturing mother Miriam (Juliette Binoche). However, with a second look, one will see a family of four intricate characters, each struggling to find and define his or her own spiritual identities.

Saul, a religious studies professor, notices Eliza’s talents and begins to teach his daughter about Kabbalah, an aspect of Jewish mysticism that deals heavily with the spiritual power of letters and how humankind can commune with God. It’s the same faith practiced by Madonna, Ashton Kutcher and a handful of other celebrities on the trendy bandwagon.

Saul sees immense untapped potential in his daughter. He firmly believes that his child has the capacity for understanding the Kabbalist wisdom that he could not. While schooling the young girl, the rest of Saul’s family drifts into different religious directions.

From that point on, the film splinters off from telling Eliza’s story and goes into how the Naummans try to get closer to God. Miriam takes her husband’s Kabbalist ideas to an extreme, and Aaron rebels against his father’s beliefs by running to a different faith. Watching these characters struggle through their confusion to change shows who they truly are.

The spiritual side of the movie, coupled with the family’s search for faith, keeps the viewer constantly engaged. The movie doesn’t try to force any of its mystic or spiritual ideas down your throat. Pieced together carefully in the plot is the idea that no matter what has happened, humankind can always pick up the shards of that which has been broken and start anew.

The transitions between scenes can be hard to follow at times. They are woven together with quick cuts between two separate events happening at once, or sometimes even out of sequence.

Bee Season is by far Hollywood’s most tactful attempt at trying to bring Kabbalah into mainstream light. While telling a moving story with complex characters, the film manages to stay captivating and precise, giving a human face to a faith that the average moviegoer probably knows nothing about.

Grade: A-

Drama, Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes, rated PG-13