The Butterfly Tree
There is a strange charm to writer-director Priscilla Cameron’s The Butterfly Tree – a frequently uncomfortable charm, but a charm nonetheless. This coming-of-age tale follows the sexual awakening of an adolescent boy, Fin (Ed Oxenbould), as he becomes infatuated with burlesque dancer and new owner of a small flower shop Evelyn (Melissa George). However, emotional conflicts begin to surface when the young protagonist discovers that he and his father Al (Ewen Leslie) are both competing for the same woman. While the film’s vibrant visuals offer moments of distraction, the style isn’t enough for us to forget about the central familial love triangle which constantly borders on being creepy.
If the feature has one thing going for it, it’s the colourful presentation and the many bizarre fantasy sequences which give the movie its own distinctive flavour. At times these moments can be uplifting and enjoyable, peppered with a sly sense of humour akin to other contemporary indie comedies. While there are a handful of points like this throughout the picture, the majority of the runtime falls into the “style over substance” camp; numerous times there is a quirky set piece or a peculiar way of delivering a scene that doesn’t do much in the way of developing characters or relationships. Rather, these points only serve to reinforce how incredibly awkward and uncomfortable the piece can be.
And herein lies the film’s downfall: what should be highly inappropriate situations are glossed over as completely normal, even heartfelt – there is nothing sweet about taking sexual photographs of someone without their knowledge and later giving those same snapshots to them as a gift. Just as perplexing is how little we actually know about the three characters and how poorly the links between them are developed – especially with the father and son duo. Without any depth to the events of the narrative, everything only ever operates at face value, and while there are some major revelations towards the end, it’s too little too late by that point.
The Butterfly Tree is a spin on the coming-of-age tale unlike you’ve seen before, although not for the right reasons. It may look like a vibrant and heartfelt story, but its colourful façade masks an empty and deeply uncomfortable situation.
The Butterfly Tree is released in select cinemas on 13th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Butterfly Tree here: