Float Like a Butterfly – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by Carmel Winters
Starring: Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Aidan O’Hare, Lalor Roddy, Lisa Lambe
In cinemas May 10th
Taking its title from the legendary Muhammad Ali quote, 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 on 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 bigger budget Winters could have explored fully. Despite this it is still enjoyable and uplifting. It has already won the FIPRESCI prize at the Toronto International Fim Festival and the director’s Choice award at the Irish Film Festival in Boston, along with 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.