20,000 Species of Bees (2023)

20,000 Species of Bees (2023)

A decent, queer coming-of-age drama elevated by an incredible lead performance

7.2

Movie

Spain
Basque, French, Spanish
Drama
2023
ESTIBALIZ URRESOLA SOLAGUREN, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Ane Gabarain, Itziar Lazkano, Martxelo Rubio
129 min

TLDR

That this child actor found more empathy for this performance than many adults can muster is pretty damning.

What it's about

While on a family vacation in the countryside, an eight-year-old girl and her mother struggle to come to terms with the daughter's identity.

The take

As far as LGBTQIA+ stories go, 20,000 Species of Bees isn't the best at talking about its themes of identity and acceptance in a way that doesn't come off as clunky. But even with its on-the-nose dialogue and inconsequential subplots, director Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren gives everything the warmth and the softness it needs to feel sincere despite everything. And no matter what, the film is always drawn back to the lead performance by Sofía Otero, who provides such a vivid image of this young trans girl's interior life that the world around her character begins to feel either more suffocating or more beautiful to behold.

What stands out

What makes Otero's performance so different from and so much better than many adult-aged cis actors playing trans characters is how her focus is rarely ever on specific physical tics or signs to indicate that her character is trans. In other words (as obvious as it sounds) she just excels at the fundamental skill of internalizing how her character must be feeling, then interacting with her scene partners accordingly. And all of this actorly instinct comes off as incredibly natural; it's a powerful performance of such vulnerability that you almost feel the reflex to reach into the screen and protect her whenever she starts shedding tears.

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