Saul Naumann (Richard Gere) is a preoccupied religion professor whose wife Miriam (Juliett Binoche) spends her days breaking into people's houses. Older son Aaron is the center of attention until 12-year old Eliza (Flora Cross) wins her school's spelling bee one day. It seems Flora is a gifted speller and can actually see the words as she spells them. The family dynamic changes completely as Saul devotes all of his time and energy to coaching Flora for the next bee, ignoring the fact that both Miriam and Aaron are quietly falling apart.
This is one of the more bizarre films I've ever seen. The plot of Flora winning spelling bees is secondary to each person's personal search for happiness and/or God. Gere's character talks a lot about mysticism from both Judaism and Khaballah and it got way too complicated and esoteric for me to understand. The plot also includes Hare Krishna, mental illness, light, and repairing the world. I just couldn't connect enough of dots to see how it all related to the spelling bee.
The four stars each give very convincing and touching performances; little Flora Cross is the real star and she's a natural talent. There's some nifty animation showing how Flora visualizes letters that's fun to watch. I think this film would be of great interest to those who are familiar with mysticism.
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