Release date: Out NOW in cinemas
With striking visuals, a winning soundtrack and a mesmerizing lead performance from lead actress Melissa George, ‘The Butterfly Tree’ is a compelling coming of age drama in the vein of ‘The Graduate’ that may not tick all the boxes, but ends up winning you over anyway.
For young Fin (Ed Oxenbould), adolescence is a bit of a drag; he’s simply going through the motions, isolated from his father Al (Ewen Leslie), a cynical creative writing teacher who is similarly trapped in a cycle of inescapable loneliness. Fin’s only respite is the beloved butterfly tree behind his house, a natural escape from his troubles, and his memories of the mother whose death has driven a wedge between father and son. But all that is about to change when they both encounter Evelyn (Melissa George), the remarkable ex-burlesque queen who shakes them out of their misery and renews their zest for life. But it isn’t long before their bond with her forces them both to confront the untreated wounds of the past.
Melissa George is perfectly cast as the enigmatic and arresting Evelyn, the free-spirited, roller-blading former dancer turned florist whose energy and eccentricity is at the heart of the film. For a character that could so easily have misfired, George does well to make Evelyn’s captivating quirks entirely believable and sparkles in every scene she’s in. In her hands, Evelyn is not simply an assemblage of traits but rather a woman who has lived many lives, and her sense of infectious adventure infuses her screen chemistry with Leslie and Oxenbound in a way that feels plausible.
That’s not to say that Evelyn’s role in the film is all sunshine and rainbows – her story moves on to darker terrain that reveals hidden layers to her character in some of the film’s most moving scenes, and serves to highlight George’s nuanced performance.
Leslie and Oxenbould are convincing as the warring father and son respectively, although the story never quite warrants the depth of conflict between them and loses some momentum in the middle as a result. Which is a shame because Al’s position in the film could have been much better utilised, as a series of bad decisions threaten to shatter his personal and professional life. Ultimately Al’s story tapers off with very little consequence, which takes something away from the overall sense of satisfaction by the time the credits roll.
But The Butterfly Tree is far from a disappointing experience – instead writer/director Priscilla Cameron delivers a colourful film packed full of gorgeous shots and exquisite details. As a feast for the eyes, it’s undoubtedly a success, and despite some of the shortcomings in the story it still marks Cameron out as a filmmaker to look out for in future.
Alex Straker | [rating=3]
Drama, Comedy | 2017, Australia | 12 | Eureka Entertainment | Dir. Priscilla Cameron | Melissa George, Ewen Leslie, Ed Oxenbould