Dour ex-boyfriend Antoine (Thomas Blanchard) returns to his Belgian hometown where he reunites with his ex-lover and the mother (Judith Chemla) of their five-year-old girl, Elsa (Lina Doillon), whom he has never met. Through an unexpected turn of events, Antoine suddenly finds himself left alone to take care of the young, inquisitive and spirited youngster. Produced by the Dardenne brothers.
User Reviews: The Elephant and the Butterfly is a children’s book that five-year-old Elsa likes to hear at bedtime. Elsa is played by Lina Doillon, the daughter of one of the filmmakers, Amélie van Emblt, in one of most naturalistic and engaging film performances by a child that I’ve ever seen.
This film follows three summer days in the lives of Elsa and her father, Antoine, (Thomas Blanchard, who plays this new father in a real and endearing way), whom Elsa first meets when Antoine returns to Liège, Brussels after being away learning to be a chef. Antoine stops by to see Elsa’s mother, Camille, (Judith Chemla), whom he used to be in a relationship with, just as she is headed out to catch a flight to an important business meeting. On the spur of the moment, Camille, who is clearly ruffled by Antoine’s unexpected appearance, asks him to watch Elsa until the babysitter comes.
The babysitter never shows up, and so a few minutes of watching Elsa turns into a few days. Father and daughter are elephant and butterfly as they get to know each other in this beautifully made slice-of-life film that is focused on the organic and lovely way their relationship unfolds as the two realize they love each other. The filmmakers do not explain why Antoine left and didn’t see his daughter. Sometimes I don’t want a story to spell everything out for me. I liked that we, the audience, were left to fill in the blanks.
This is a wonderful film for those, like me, who gravitate to character studies. Few films stick with me after they end like this one did. Thank goodness for art house movies.
Produced by the Dardenne brothers and Martin Scorsese.