Film-Forward Review: [THE BUTTERFLY]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Claire Bouanich as Elsa

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Directed by: Philippe Muyl.
Produced by: Patrick Godeau.
Written by: Philippe Muyl.
Director of Photography: Nicolas Herdt.
Edited by: Mireille Leroy.
Music by: Nicolas Errèra.
Released by: First Run Features.
Country of Origin: France. 80 min. Not Rated (mostly likely G).
With: Michel Serrault & Claire Bouanich.

The thumping noise from his new upstairs neighbor keeps Julien (Michel Serrualt) awake at night. Above, Elsa (Claire Bouanich), a diminutive looking Pippi Longstocking, is dribbling her basketball. One afternoon, he notices her alone at a cafe waiting for her mother to walk her home after school. He allows her wait in his apartment, but forbids her from opening a certain door. When his back is turned, she not opens the door but leaves it open, letting out a colorful assortment of butterflies. He angrily orders her out of his home. Understandably, he's none to please to discover her in his car when he's off to the country for several days to find the elusive and seasonal butterfly, the Isabelle. Her often-absent mother hasn't returned home, and Elsa pleads with Julien to take her with him. Improbably he does.

Elsa's character is one of the most accurate portrayals of an eight year old you'll see: determined to have her way, even a brat at times; but willing to follow orders; lonely; and manipulative. She tries calling the elderly widower grandpa, which he'll have none of, and loses the microchip for his cell phone, making it useless and them more isolated. But slowly and surely, they are holding hands in the beautiful mountain scenery. "It looks like a calendar," Elsa remarks. And during their search, he teaches her such lessons as, "When love demands proof, there's no trust. Without trust, there's no love."

Their metamorphosing friendship will be of mild interest to adults and children, because of the lack of suspense or humor. Although well acted with a strong sense of naturalism, the film is as light and ephemeral as the Isabelle itself. Kent Turner
December 19, 2003



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