Review: French drama ‘The Elephant and the Butterfly’ spins a warm, light fable
Belgian director Amélie van Elmbt’s lovely trifle “The Elephant and the Butterfly” is as sweet and gentle — and at times simplistic — as its storybook title may imply.
This fable-like drama involves a 30-ish chef, Antoine (Thomas Blanchard), who shows up unexpectedly to visit his ex-lover, Camille (Judith Chemla), after a five-year absence. She’s less than thrilled to see him but, about to leave on a business trip, asks if he’ll stay with her young daughter, Elsa (Lina Doillon, van Elmbt’s own child), until her delayed babysitter arrives.
But the babysitter never shows so Antoine’s left watching Elsa for what becomes three warm, fun-filled days that will change both of their lives. That’s because — no spoiler, it’s obvious from the jump — the bright, amenable, well-adjusted Elsa is the daughter Antoine left behind.
The largely episodic script by van Elmbt and Matthieu de Braconier metes out its character details so gingerly they can feel like afterthoughts. Still, it’s not hard to intuit the dynamics and emotions at work here, though why the seemingly good-hearted Antoine hasn’t seen Elsa all this time needed far more unpacking. This might have also better justified Camille’s sanctimonious disdain for him.
The film’s highly engaging quality rests mainly on the small shoulders of the adorable Doillon, who proves a delightfully winning and naturalistic presence.
‘The Elephant and the Butterfly’
In French with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills
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