The Butterfly Tree is a breathtaking Australian drama that takes its viewers on a journey of love and loss; showing how the two intertwine for a grieving father and son.
The film is the debut feature of Pricilla Cameron, who wrote and directed this coming-of-age tale, featuring the talented cast of Melissa George, Ewen Leslie, Ed Oxenbould and Sophie Lowe. The Butterfly Tree has been a decade in the making and was filmed entirely in Mount Tambourine in Queensland. The film is undeniably Australian from the scenery to the Aussie slang, and captures the rural Australian town perfectly.
Cameron’s debut tells the story of father Al (Ewen Leslie), and his son Fin (Ed Oxenbould), trying to overcome their grief after Fin’s mother passed away. Their relationship is in ruins and the beginning of the film paints a bleak picture; Al is a having an affair with one of his students (Sophie Lowe) at the community college he works at, and Fin is spending most of this time in the butterfly sanctuary that he and his mother had built. Then enters the beautiful and vibrant Evelyn (Melissa George), an ex-burlesque queen turned florist, with a love for life and a greenhouse full of secrets.
Both Fin and Al are enthralled as soon as they lay eyes on Evelyn; her soft nature and beauty appeals to both men and a part of them they thought was lost long ago. The story follows both father and son, and their journey discovering that Evelyn represents a part of themselves, and as you watch the film, one forgets that Evelyn is not just there for Al and Fin’s fantasy, but has a story of her own.
It is when Evelyn’s perfect façade comes crashing down towards the end of the film that Al and Fin realise that only the act of fixing their relationship can heal the pain caused by their loss, and not fawning over a stranger; no matter how lovely she may be.
This film is a piece of art; visually breathtaking and magical, creating a form of realism that is hard to find, where one is entertained whilst finding the characters relatable. Melissa George’s angelic features and demeanour acts as the perfect canvas to build a complex character, that gains depth as the film goes on. She provides a strong female lead, where at first you think her character’s depth doesn’t go beyond a blonde bombshell.
The Butterfly Tree is proof that Australia can produce thought-provoking and beautiful dramas like we used to, instead of the reality television that seems to be its specialty at present. Pricilla Cameron’s debut is a very personal film and resonates deeply with its audience, especially those who have lost someone close to them. Cameron has perfectly captured the constant and gnawing pain that this form of grief can manifest into. The movie resonated with me deeply, leaving me in tears, along with a feeling of hope towards its ending.
The Butterfly Tree made its debut at the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival – check out our reviews from MIFF here.