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20,000 Species of Bees

'20,000 Species of Bees'

Spanish / Basque film about an 8 year old trans youngster who experiences family struggling to come to term with her changes. Some critics have said this film is a little thin and with a run-time of over 2 hours there are some scenes that felt a little unnecessary. There is also perhaps an analogy too far in terms of the central theme. Some of the images remidned me of Victor Erice's classic 'Spirit of the Beehive', but the coming of age narrative is only part of the story here.

The central performance by Sofia Otero though is nothing short of remarkable. There are so many child performances these days that catch the eye, especially in European cinema, and this is right at the top. Otero’s facial expressions and body language is so natural.

The film itself is very tenderly directed by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, who gives us a couple of weeks in the life of a child trying to make sense of why she is different as she goes on holiday with her family. Most people around her seem more confused at her gender than she is, and that just makes her feel even more out of place. Her mother Ana is on board with whatever Lucia wants to be, but has struggles of her own in terms of identity and family dynamic. The only person Lucia really connects with is her Aunty who is widowed and keeps bees. Lucia connects to nature and finds solace in the stories her aunty tells her about bee-keeping and her faith in the church. The last 40 minutes or so of the film has two or three heart-rendering scenes that make it all worthwhile and the pay off is so satisfying.