Review: Documentary ‘Butterfly Girl’ celebrates life amid medical struggles

In the documentary "Butterfly Girl," Abigail Evans lives with a life-threatening skin disease.

In the documentary “Butterfly Girl,” Abigail Evans lives with a life-threatening skin disease.

(Indican Pictures)

Sometimes it’s those with the hardest struggles in life who remember to appreciate life more than anyone else. This message comes through loud and clear in Cary Bell’s documentary, “Butterfly Girl.”

The film tells the story of Abigail Evans, a young Texan with a rare skin disorder, epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disease that prevents skin from bonding to the body. Abbie’s had to spend her whole life having to be careful, in addition to enduring painful medical procedures. She has to move through the world with the utmost of care, which is not the way most 19-year-olds experience life.

Working as a merch girl selling concert T-shirts for dad John Evans and his honky tonk band, she is able to achieve some autonomy and a social life, but she longs for more: college, travel, living alone. Abbie’s free spirit, aching wanderlust and gritty toughness are palpable.

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Bell’s film captures the spectrum of emotions here: Abbie’s desire for more as well as her fear, her parents’ need to protect her as well as their wish to set her free. She makes the most of her life experiences, and when she’s exploring the world on her own — photographing California cliffs, eating pancakes in a diner, kicking it in the Austin bars where her dad plays — it’s with an enthusiasm and presence of mind that are inspiring. With a swooning honky tonk rock soundtrack and spunky spirit, “Butterfly Girl,” is so much more than a medical drama documentary.


“Butterfly Girl.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.