"Butterfly" is an enjoyable, if slight, little film that contains some fine performances, but never really engaged me that highly. The film starts off with Moncho (Manuel Lozano) having to face the terror of coming to a new school and meeting new classmates. After an embarassing incident, the boy (nicknamed "sparrow" for his delicate nature), eventually begins to get along with the assistance of his teacher Don Gregorio (Fernando Fernán Gómez).
The film takes place in the 1930's, and as the story unfolds, the start of the Spanish Civil War becomes closer and closer. Much of the film though actually doesn't discuss this too much, as we see Moncho and his brother (as well as a couple of newly gained friends from school) learn about the world and nature and grow up. Much of this first half is light, occasionally somewhat amusing and well-acted. It's also a little bit slow as the picture begins to wander occasionally. Credit the actors for keeping the minor events that unfold at least somewhat engaging.
As the film goes towards its finish though, the unrest in the country begins to have a greater effect on the lives of the people of the small town. At the film's quick 94 minute running time, the film still does seem a bit slow in parts but it never did noticably drag. On the other hand, I didn't feel that it was quite able to develop story and characters within this rather short time frame.
Still, there's a lot to like about the film. The cinematography is frequently breathtaking, with a handful of especially marvelous shots of the surrounding scenery. The performances by the actors that play Moncho and his teacher are also quite good, generally holding my attention through some of the stretches that I found less engaging.
Overall, there's a lot to like about "Butterfly", but I just found it was one of those films that never quite took flight.
VIDEO: Miramax offers "Butterfly" in an exceptionally pleasing 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Although not without some minor imperfections, the presentation often shows off some beautiful scenery that looks fantastic. Sharpness and detail are not always quite consistent, as some scenes seem to have an intentionally slightly "soft" look to them, but never does the image look irritatingly soft or hazy.
What I was happy to see was that the print used is remarkably clear. I didn't notice any instances of grain or print flaws in the way of marks, scratches or even slight speckles. This made for a refreshingly clear and clean image that made the beautiful scenery even more enjoyable to look at. The picture was not quite free of distractions though, as some trace amounts of pixelation and edge enhancement were noticed. These flaws didn't really take away from the viewing experience much and were very infrequent.
Colors are often gorgeous throughout the movie, such as the deep, rich greens of the surrounding forests. Colors look rich, well-saturated and bold, with no problems at all. Flesh tones were also accurate and natural. A very fine presentation from Miramax that looked impressive at times.
SOUND: "Butterfly" is offered in an acceptable and occasionally enjoyable Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish presentation. The majority of the film seems almost mono in nature, becoming completely dialogue-driven. Yet, there are some sequences throughout in the exterior scenes where the surrounds do offer some noticable (if rather subtle) ambient sounds. Although I can't speak Spanish myself, the dialogue seemed clear and clean.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with very basic film-themed images serving as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: As with Miramax's other recent release that I have reviewed, "Legend Of Drunken Master", these titles do offer "sneak peek" trailers, but rather than forcing the viewer to watch these trailers before the main menu, these trailers can now be watched separately by selecting them from their own section. There are also, at least in this case, more trailers than usual. The Grandfather, Like Water For Chocolate, Life Is Beautiful, Il Postino, The Englishman Who Went Up..., My Life So Far, My Son The Fantastic, A Price Above Rubies, East is East and That's The Way I Like It.
Final Thoughts: Although "Butterfly" is a well-acted piece, parts of the tale of Moncho growing up began to lose my interest. The $32.99 price tag though, is definitely too high to recommend the disc - some may enjoy the film as a rental, though.
The Film ** 1/2
Video 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Audio: 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Extras: 71/C = (213/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 79/C+ = (237/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B-