I intended to see THE BUTTERFLY at a French Film Festival here in Boston a few years ago, but I purchased the tickets on line and must have made a mistake, because I was given tickets for another film that was showing on the same day at a later time. I then rented the DVD or what I thought was the DVD but didn't pay careful attention to the box and saw a Spanish film with the same title, a worthwhile film, but not what I wanted to see. Seeing this film was becoming as much of a challenge as finding the elusive as the butterfly that the main character is searching for in the film. Finally I had the correct DVD in hand, and saw a simple film that is both moving and charming.
THE BUTTERFLY (LE PAPILLON) is a relatively short (about eighty minutes) film that tells the story of a friendship that grows between a young girl and a man old enough to be her grandfather. Julien (Michel Surrault) is an older gentleman who has a passion for collecting butterflies. A young mother and her daughter Elsa move in the same apartment building. Elsa (Claire Bouanich) is often left alone and one day, as Julien leaves for a trip to find an elusive butterfly, the Isabella, Elsa is left alone. He has a choice: either he can leave Elsa with the police or he can take her with him. He chooses the latter, due more to impatience with the wait at the police station than any kind of attachment to the girl, and it is on the trip the two bond. We learn as the film progresses why Julien is alone and the importance of finding the Isabella for both characters.
The story of a young spirit touching the heart of a lonely older person is familiar and has been told in many different ways in films the world over, yet THE BUTTERFLY manages to tell it in an original way. The film is gorgeous to watch, especially the mountain scenes, and it never gets sentimental though it tugs at the heart. It's an enjoyable film to watch and a great film to have in a DVD collection to watch again and again.