The Butterfly

Beautiful scenery and a strong cast help director Philippe Muyl overcome a less-then-compelling script in this sweet story about unlikely friends who have more to teach each other than either realizes. Tomboyish, eight-year-old Elsa (Claire Bouanich) moves into a new building in Paris with her 25-year-old single mom, Isabelle (Nade Dieu). But Isabelle's...read more

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Reviewed by Angel Cohn
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Beautiful scenery and a strong cast help director Philippe Muyl overcome a less-then-compelling script in this sweet story about unlikely friends who have more to teach each other than either realizes. Tomboyish, eight-year-old Elsa (Claire Bouanich) moves into a new building in Paris with her 25-year-old single mom, Isabelle (Nade Dieu). But Isabelle's desire to have a social life on top of her busy work schedule often leaves freckle-faced Elsa to her own devices, sitting on benches for hours waiting for her mother to come home. A curmudgeonly older neighbor, Julien (Michel Serrault), grudgingly takes Elsa in when her mother isn't around. Elsa shares Julien's enthusiasm for butterfly collecting, but their tentative friendship is shattered when she disobeys his only rule, opening a door that frees many of the live butterflies he's raising. Julien has been planning for some time to go on a week-long hiking quest in search of an extremely rare and beautiful butterfly that lives only in a specific mountain region and has a life span of three days and nights. But he sets off unaware that Elsa has hidden herself in the back of his car, hoping that if she tags along she can make things right with the only father figure in her life. Once he discovers Elsa, Julien repeatedly tries to contact her mother or send her home, but Elsa foils his attempts to do the sensible thing by giving him false contact information, damaging his cell phone and pointedly calling him Grandpa in public places. Reluctantly forced to take Elsa along or lose the chance to add a coveted butterfly to his collection, Julien is surprised to find himself enjoying the child's company. Elsa peppers Julien with incessant questions as they travel through the mountains, and eagerly soaks up his knowledge of the natural world. What Julien doesn't realize (because Elsa, too young to understand the implications of her deception, has deliberately hidden information from him) is that Isabelle has launched a police investigation into her daughter's "abduction." This sweet, simply told story accentuates the positive, only briefly acknowledging that anyone is in the wrong and offering up facile forgiveness without acknowledging consequences. But the film's heart is the relationship between Elsa and Julien, and stars Bouanich and Serrault have a lovely onscreen rapport that's truly endearing. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Beautiful scenery and a strong cast help director Philippe Muyl overcome a less-then-compelling script in this sweet story about unlikely friends who have more to teach each other than either realizes. Tomboyish, eight-year-old Elsa (Claire Bouanich) moves… (more)

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