Review by Nancy Legato
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Friday, 10/21/2005, 9:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles
DIRECTOR AND SCREENWRITER Yan Yan Mak recounts an understated tale of love lost and new love found in the poignant and lyrical Butterfly. Flavia and Jin fall in love as rebellious young students against a backdrop of Tiananmen Square.
Their relationship, depicted in flashbacks, unfolds in counterpoint to Flavia’s adult life, in which she has married a man and given birth to a child. In the present, her staid family existence is suddenly challenged by the allure of a young woman named Xiao Ye, who asks her to take another chance with true love. In order to decide whether she can accept Xiao Ye’s invitation, Flavia has to go back into her own past to understand what went wrong with her relationship with Jin, and how to move on from the most significant relationship she has ever had.
Lyrical photography, atmospheric settings, and delicate music reinforce the haunting nature of the questions besieging Flavia as she tries to handle the multiple pulls on her loyalty: her youthful memories of her first love, the persistent tug of her love for her infant daughter, her obligations to her husband, and the revivifying challenge of potential new romance with Xiao Ye.
It’s mostly a sentimental tale that could go horribly awry, but restrained yet heartfelt acting on the part of the protagonists wins through in the end. Josie Ho as Flavia, Yuan Tian as Xiao Ye, and Joman Chiang as the young Jin turn in bedrock performances. Eric Kot as Flavia’s husband takes a part that could have been terribly overplayed and makes it seem effortlessly grieving without overplaying a moment. Unfortunately, geologically slow pacing and unselective editing threaten to overwhelm an otherwise nearly perfect film. Otherwise, however, Butterfly‘s lovely qualities outnumber its flaws and make it a film well worth your time at this year’s film festival.