'The Butterfly Tree' has been almost a decade in the making.
Debut film director Priscilla Cameron, a part-time lecturer at Brisbane's Griffith Film School, had produced a number of short films. In 2010, Cameron's unproduced script for her first feature-length film won an Australian Writers Guild award and funding from Screen Queensland. The Post Lounge, private investors, distributor Vendetta Films, Film Victoria and the Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund soon hopped aboard.
When 13-year-old Fin (Ed Oxenbould, 'Paper Planes'), mourning the death of his mother, meets Evelyn (Melissa George, '30 Days of Night', 'Triangle'), the new owner of the local flower shop with a penchant for 1940s fashion and a zest for life, he is drawn into her exotic world of flora and insects.
Meanwhile his father, Al (Ewen Leslie, 'Top of the Lake', 'The Daughter'), is grieving in his own way and sleeping with Shelley (Sophie Lowe, 'Beautiful Kate'), a youthful, kooky student in his creative writing class. "We can play spider babies," a lingerie-clad Shelley hilariously coos at Al, as he buries his face despairingly in his hands.
WATCH: 'THE BUTTERFLY TREE'
As Fin's feelings for Evelyn grow stronger, he has to distinguish his teenage desire from misplaced maternal love. Conflict arises when he realises Al has also fallen for Evelyn.
Priscilla Cameron has crafted an emotional, stylised and slightly fantastical story about three people's relationship with love, loss and each other. In an interview with the ABC, Cameron cited European films as inspiration: "Films like 'Amélie' and 'Pan's Labyrinth' have definitely contributed to the style and feel and the world of the film and I wanted to make a film that was visually beautiful."
Going above and beyond this directive, Jason Hargreaves' cinematography is lush, with vivid dream sequences where Fin is carried away by a cloud of butterflies and buried under dead leaves. Painterly colour tones enhance this film's nostalgic, hyper-real visual aesthetic. This vivid use of colour and lighting also function as projections of the characters' bodily and mental states, augmenting the development and several nuances of the story itself. When Fin, during an emotionally fraught scene, takes shelter from a storm in the scrubland next to his house, the harsh red and blue lighting, menacing shadows and screeching soundtrack recall Dario Argento's chaotic 'Suspiria'. A critical moment involves a baby blue car being splashed with pink paint. Even small details, like Lowe's red hair and Oxenbould's blue eyes, pop out from the screen.
This vivid use of colour and lighting also function as projections of the characters' bodily and mental states, augmenting the development and several nuances of the story itself.
'The Butterfly Tree' is a very pretty-looking (and sounding, via Cailtin Yeo) film, especially when you consider that this low-budget feature was shot entirely on location on Mount Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland on a budget of less than $3 million.
Not content to let Cameron and Hargreaves do all the heavy-lifting, the cast of actors bring their A-game. The versatile Melissa George should never be underrated, as she moves effortlessly between kindly, seductive, and vulnerable. She even does her own roller-skating. Ed Oxenbould embraces a role of complex emotional flux, Ewen Leslie is sympathetic as a rather immature bloke whose life is spiraling out of control and Sophie Lowe provides the bulk of the humour as the beautiful, but very odd Shelley.
This personal, lovingly-executed ensemble piece from first-time writer and director Priscilla Cameron is well-worth checking out.
This film exists simply to cash-in on James Gunn’s current success via one of his old, discarded ideas. Unoriginal and rather boring, the script should have remained lodged beneath Gunn’s couch.
‘The Void’ is an impressive production not just for an indie film, but for a modern horror movie in a category crowded with high-budget slop.
It’s hard not to be charmed by ‘Maudie’. Sally Hawkins is radiant as Maud, and her work in this film will hopefully continue to build her reputation. Aisling Walsh has crafted a gem with this film.
'God's Own Country' is a miracle of a film, a quiet masterpiece that holds you enraptured from beginning to end by its beauty and its humanity.
Though the cast is charismatic and eager, and the story is astonishing, this is a disappointingly limp affair. While it tells the tale with clarity, it forgets to be a film in the process.
Luca Guadagnino has made a film of enormous humanity, a statement on the nature of love that sends shockwaves through you, especially with the powerhouse performance from Timothée Chalamet.
It is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure, but the underlying humanism of the Safdies’ dark and unflinching world view means that buried underneathis a jittery, frantically beating heart.
While ‘Revolution of Sound. Tangerine Dream’ is less engaging than it could have been, it is still fascinating viewing, particularly for film and music buffs.
Some mild touches of fantasy contribute to a mood of dreamy melancholy in this quirky, bittersweet and rather beautiful urban comedy.
‘A Life in Waves’ continues Whitcomb’s admirable quest to shine a light on the untold stories of inspirational women who blazed a trail. This is an essential documentary for fans of electronic music.
It's an overwhelming experience that's remarkable, nuanced and elegant. This is film as both art and entertainment melded together, fascinating and unparalleled in its story and storytelling methods.
'The Square' is a masterful piece of cinema, preposterously funny and endlessly strange, culminating in moments of genuine awe.
This is another indulgently outlandish offering from a director unafraid to cross lines and toy with taboos. The film is slick, smart and self-assured - the best kind of barbarous cinema.
Reinforcing the ability of art and artists to form connections and provide windows into the lives of people who are just like us, and also not at all, this is a moving tribute to the act of creation.
There were moments that took my breath away, images that spoke very deeply to our connection with the natural world. This is the chance to celebrate Terrence Malick's skill as a visual storyteller.
This puzzle-box doesn't make it easy for you, and like many of Michael Haneke's films, your response will likely be complex. He wants you to be provoked, pushed and bamboozled by it.
While the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, if you are seeking a simple story that is elegantly told, imminently watchable, and may require a box of tissues to catch some excess eye moisture.
A few unanswered questions aside, ‘Tokyo Idols’ is a very strange, amusing, and uncomfortable look into a particularly odd facet of modern Japanese culture.
Katabuchi’s previous anime films are better known in the West among anime nerds - but the incredibly moving and sobering ‘In This Corner of the World’ should be the film to change that.
As amazing as everything looks and sounds, ‘The Challenge’ is quite boring. Most scenes are long and dreamy, but they also tend to be repetitive and boy, do they drag on.
‘The Ornithologist’ is about losing yourself in the wild, only to find yourself. Venturing down twisting pathways, it drags us on a preposterous adventure through the darkest parts of the mind.