Bal [honey]

"Excellent"

Bal [honey] Review


This beautifully observant exploration of childhood quietly holds our attention even though there isn't much in the way of a plot. But it's so strikingly well-filmed, with a lovely central performance, that it really sparks our imagination.

Yusuf (Altas) is a 6-year-old in a tiny Turkish village, where he follows his father Yakup (Beskicioglu) around with unending curiosity. Yakup places beehives high in the trees, climbing up to extract the honey. This is far more appealing to Yusuf than learning to read and write in school, although even that holds some interest. When his father goes on a trip to find more bees, Yusuf goes silent, as he can't talk to anyone else without stammering. Will he be able to communicate with his mother (Ozen) without his dad to help?

The film is an almost elegiac ode to childhood, as it follows Yusuf closely through this story. And he's such a cute little kid that we can't help but fall in love with him, as he refuses to drink his milk, cheekily steals his neighbour's homework, and chases birds through the forest. Life is a bundle of inexplicable mysteries for Yusuf, and he is learning new lessons every day. But this has little to do with his schoolwork.

Very little actually happens in the film, and there is only minimal dialog. But scenes clearly establish the tight bond between father and son before events gently nudge Yusuf out of his secure nest. Young Altas plays this with a raw honesty that's completely disarming. A wry grin, quavering fear, watery eyes: we only see subtle signs as to what he's thinking, and yet we are right with him through the story.

This is minimalist filmmaking aimed at a fairly adventurous audience that is willing to dive in and experience the film as a slice of life and an exploration of connections between families, society and nature. This is also the third chapter in Kaplanoglu's trilogy, after Egg (2007) and Milk (2008), recounting Yusuf's life in reverse order. All three films have won major festival awards, but the first two haven't been released in the UK. Hopefully a boxed set will come along after this film's release.



Bal [honey]

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th March 2011

Distributed by: Olive Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Semih Kaplanoglu

Producer: Semih Kaplanoglu

Starring: as Yakup, Tülin Özen as Zehra, as Yusuf

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