By James Keller

In America, spelling is a cutthroat game. A missing vowel, an extra consonant or, heaven forbid, a Canadian spelling could mean the difference between victory and heartache. And in the end, all but one will make a mistake.

Spellbound captures the journey of a handful of American grade school children on their way to the National Spelling Bee, and the result is a clever, insightful and heartwarming look into not only the competition, but also into the lives of the competitors involved. Whether it’s Harry’s hyperactive demeanor or Ashley’s soulful 12-year-old optimism, the characters are easy to relate to and impossible to dislike.

As a documentary, Spellbound is a wonderful success. Visually, the movie is beautiful, with skilled and original cinematography and visual techniques. There’s little narration, too, which provides a transparent window to watch through. And the story, although not necessarily familiar, will pull you in, tug at your emotions and provide you with some of the most suspenseful moments in film in 2003.


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