Bee Season has two directors (Scott McGehee and David Siegel, and no, I don't know how the DGA lets them get away with it), and yet, somehow, it's one of the most distinctive auteur works I've seen in years. It's the story of the Naumanns, a happy, attractive, comfortable family living in a dark-wood home struck through with the bright-white sunlight of a Northern California winter, and the way their lives are both shattered and fixed when divine light starts to refract itself through their everyday. The patriarch is Saul (Richard Gere), a Kabbalah professor and a control freak who runs the household as a top-down economy with a strong "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" policy of prejudice. His wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) is beautiful but secretive, and quite possibly unbalanced; their 16-year-old son Aaron (Max Minghella) is closely-held and a bit naive; his 11-year-old sister Eliza is both supernaturally intense and easily ignored.

Saul imposes incredible, unmeetable standards on the people he professes to love, but it's nor hard to see where he's coming from – he has a lot to lose. The reigns start to slip away from him, and the family's entire way of being is thrown out of whack, when Eliza wins a school spelling bee. As she begins to rise through the ranks of regional tournaments, then makes it to states, and, finally, to national competition, each member of the household slides into some kind of reckoning of faith. Eliza is the catalyst of it all: she watches and even physically feels the havoc she's wraught, and yet she firmly remains the family's (and the film's) zen center, the ever-calm eye of a storm that both mesmerizes and confounds.