Film Review & Trailer: Float Like a Butterfly

Frances Winston reviews this Irish film, Float Like A Butterfly, set within an Irish traveller family

Directed by Carmel Winters – Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Aidan O’Hare, Lalor Roddy, Lisa Lambe

Taking its title from the legendary Muhammad Ali saying, this Irish production is fittingly set around the time he visited the Emerald Isle in 1972.

As excitement builds for the GOAT’s visit, young traveller girl, Frances (Doupe) is honing her boxing skills, while waiting for her father (Devaney) to get out of prison.

Upon his release, he abandons his family campsite, and takes to the road with Frances and her brother. While Frances longs to get to Dublin to see Ali in action, her father’s feckless ways ensure that this won’t be a straightforward journey.

Frances’ frustrations at her father are compounded by the fact that he refuses to see her as a feisty independent young woman. Torn between her loyalty to her father and frustration at her lot, Frances realises that she will have to take some drastic action to be accepted for the person she is.

While this is essentially a coming of age road movie, it also delves deeply into more serious issues surrounding traveller culture and their attitudes to women. Throughout the movie, Frances is regarded as inferior to the men in her life, despite being more capable than most of them. It is often extremely uncomfortable to watch, as it is horrific to think that anyone would get away with the way she is treated here nowadays.

The catalyst for much of the action comes from early issues with a local guard (O’Hare) who is almost a caricature. He taunts and goads the travellers, and allows his son to do the same. It all feels a bit forced and OTT, and I couldn’t help thinking that he didn’t need to be so overwritten. There have been enough tensions between travellers and the law without exaggerating this. Aside from this character, Frances and her family are well-written, and all the actors do a fantastic job. There is a lovely chemistry between Devaney and Doupe, and her performance in particular has astonishing depth for such a young performer.

West Cork is an inadvertent co-star of this movie, and the cinematography really shows it at its best. Winters seems to have been blessed to get a rare period of sunshine for her shoot-days, ensuring that her landscapes are stunning.

This is somewhat clichéd – particularly the score, which couldn’t be more diddly-ay if it tried – but also has some beautiful moments. There is the basis of a great film here, which with a higher budget, Winters could have explored fully.

Despite this it is still enjoyable and up-lifting. It has already won the FIPRESCI prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Director’s Choice award at the Irish Film Festival in Boston, and the Audience Award at the Cork Film Festival, so it is obviously striking a chord with people, and it does have a lot of heart.

If you can ignore the clichés, and watch without modern sensitivities to the treatment of women and children, this is a decent addition to the annals of Irish movies.

In Cinemas May Now! Trailer below:

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