The Butterfly Tree: Film Review

I haven’t seen Melissa George in anything for quite a while so it was lovely to see her back on my screen playing a mysterious, beguiling and vulnerable character named Evelyn in The Butterfly Tree.

Evelyn is a former burlesque dancer who has opened a new flower shop in Australia. She unwittingly ends up in a love triangle between a father Al (Ewen Leslie) and his teenage son Fin (Ed Oxenbould) – she offers Fin a job after he drops by the store and he ends up falling in love with her, and teacher Al asks her out for a date – with both father and son having no idea the other has made Evelyn’s acquaintance. This exposes deep resentments between them which forces them to address what happened to their wife/mother.

I wasn’t quite sure what genre The Butterfly Tree wanted to be, as it had all the ingredients for a comedy caper – including Shelley (Sophie Lowe), a student Al is sleeping with – and it was quite funny at times, but it is also very serious and sad, particularly when secrets about Evelyn’s private life and Fin’s mother are revealed. I know films can blend genres, but it didn’t quite nail either of them and felt tonally uneven.

There is also a weird, surreal quality to it. Fin has built a shrine to his mum full of butterflies and he regularly dreams of them, including Evelyn wearing sexy butterfly wings and butterflies landing on her nude body. It is bonkers and definitely makes the movie more of an indie outing, but it makes more sense later on.

Oxenbould has certainly come a long way since I first saw him in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and he puts on a very fine performance as a boy grieving his mother and enthralled by Evelyn. It’s hard to tell if he wants her in a romantic capacity or as a mother figure – either way, he is besotted. Evelyn is a weird creature and a hard one to crack; she seems to have a lust for life and carefree nature, but is hiding some big personal secrets, and George does extremely well with that. She picked a juicy role for her return to film after four years! Leslie is equally excellent as the despairing dad trying to do better and Lowe as the dangerously sexy Shelley, who doesn’t want their affair to end.

I enjoyed a lot about The Butterfly Tree and the story was curious and interesting – I had no idea where it was going to go – but it doesn’t quite work. It’s not funny enough or moving enough and I would have liked to have known more about the enigmatic Evelyn.

In cinemas Friday 13th July 

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