The Blue Butterfly
2004, PG, 97 min. Directed by Léa Pool. Starring William Hurt, Pascale Bussières, Marc Donato, Raoul Trujilo, Topo, Marianella.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 10, 2006
There's something faintly passive-aggressive about the words "based on a true story,"? especially when they preface a film about a cancer-stricken 10-year-old searching for the elusive morpho butterfly. You might as well say, "Only a real asshole will emerge from this film with heartstrings unplucked“ and don't think I didn't feel like a grade-A one when I involuntarily winced at the film's opening line: "Why me? Why do I have to die now?"? The Blue Butterfly is rife with this sort of bald sentiment, no surprise considering French-Canadian director Pool's last film was the execrable lesbian boarding-school crack-up Lost and Delirious. Pool shows about the same restraint here (which is to say very little), but this time at least she's leaning on sturdier shoulders than the twig-some ones of Piper Perabo and Mischa Barton. In fact, everything about The Blue Butterfly is more substantial – and far more satisfying– than in Pool's last outing, from script and performance to camerawork and vision. This family-friendly film starts in the vein of a TV Movie of the Week, quickly establishing Kid With Cancer – Pete (Donato); Kid With Cancer's Dream – to track down the rainforest-dwelling blue butterfly; and Obstacle to Said Dream – a celebrated but cranky entymologist named Alan (Hurt), who balks at bringing Pete to the rainforest and, more significantly, at making himself vulnerable to the kind of life lessons that any self-respecting, stock Kid With Cancer is bound to impart. But when Alan, Pete, and Pete's sassy mom, Teresa (Bussières), arrive in rainforest country, the film shifts gears and begins to breathe. The Hallmark homilies are all there, but they're couched in a neat little nature doc. Skirting through brush, spying on dart frogs and iguanas and rhino beetles, The Blue Butterfly breeds a sort of contagious marveling at the world of green at large, and Pool's film is at its best on these long romps (who knew butterfly-net action could be so breathlessly entertaining?). The dramatic scenes, although ably played by the trio of leads, tend toward the maudlin, and Pete McCormack's script leans too heavily on superfluous voiceover. But in the end, only a real asshole would begrudge such a small, heartfelt picture. And the inevitable plucking? Not so painful, after all.