Butterfly Review

Nov 04, 2008 | 12:48pm EST

It’s 1936 and shy 7-year-old Moncho (Manuel Lozano) feels painfully out

of place in his Galician village until a kindly schoolteacher (Fernando

Fernán Gómez) takes him under his wing inspiring in the youngster a

love for nature and poetry. But the exciting New World that opens up

before Moncho’s eyes is soon threatened by the dark tide of fascism

rising around him.

Perfect casting from the awkwardly adorable Lozano to renowned Spanish

national treasure Fernán Gomez does much of the work for the

filmmakers. Uxía Blanco and Gonzalo Uriarte also make strong impressions

as Moncho’s parents whose divided loyalties (hers to the Church his to

the Republic) are played subtly at first but become increasingly evident

as the political atmosphere intensifies. In the end though it’s Fernán

Gómez’s youthful energy and quiet dignity that give the film its soul.

Director-producer José Luis Cuerda creates a magical world in which

fable-like episodes such as a romantic interlude between Moncho’s older

brother and a mute Chinese woman seem perfectly believable then

seamlessly makes the difficult transition to the more serious tone of

the last section. At times he loses his grip on the loose-jointed

narrative but all that is forgotten when he gets to the brutally honest

finish a masterfully set-up sequence as unexpected as it is inevitable.

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