There's a thin line between "sweet" and "sappy." It's a tough one to nail down, and different for each person. But The Butterfly, a 2002 French film, certainly falls on the "sappy" side of the line.
The plot centers on a latchkey kids and Elsa. She's befriended by an elderly neighbor (Michel Serrault) in her building. When he goes looking for a special butterfly in the mountains, she hides in his car without telling anyone.
Michel Serrault does an excellent job with the material as Julien, the eldery neighbor, but there's no saving this 80-minute film. The entire second act drags (tough to do in a film less than an hour and a half long), and the entire third act feels tacked on, as if writer/director Philippe Muyl had no way to end the film.
The one saving grace is the cinematography of Nicolas Herdt. The entire butterfly hunt looks beautiful, colorful and so peaceful. Herdt and Muyl do a great job of contrasting the free and open mountain hike with the cold and gray of the city.
Not only is the widescreen presentation of The Butterfly not anamorphic, but English subtitles are burned into the image and cannot be removed. The picture is often too bright, and there is a wide range between the outdoor and indoor scenes that makes viewing at any setting tough on the eyes.
The two channel French audio track is exactly everything it has to be, which is not much. The score, at times the best part of the film, sounds fine coming through the front speakers, though.
Brief biographies, a photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer are the only extras included.
The Butterfly tries to find a whimsical tone, a place where it can pull on the heartstrings. Instead, with its short running time and lack of character arc, the film comes closer to replicating an after-school special.