The problem for distinguished actor Michel Serrault (Les Diaboliques, 1954) is in withholding his adoration of co-star cutie Claire Bouanich (as Elsa, in her screen debut) long enough to portray ornery neighbor Julien, a self-contained entomologist who is too absorbed in his butterfly collection to welcome a child's attentions. Pretending to see her as an over-inquisitive annoyance demanded professional distance in order to allow the dramatic design to ensnare him (and us) into her magnetic little net.
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A pair of memorably beguiling, well-matched performances turn what could have been a cloying children's movie into a bittersweet heart-warmer in "The Butterfly," a French confection that eschew cuteness for character.
Michel Serrault ("La Cage aux Folles") stars as a kindly old grump of an amateur entomologist, and button-eyed, be-freckled, 8-year-old Claire Bouanich matches wits with him as a lonesome latchkey-kid neighbor who stows away in his car as he departs for a long hike in the remote Alps on an obsessive hunt for an elusive butterfly.
Unwilling to cut his trip short and (for reasons just on the passable side of forgivably contrived) unable to phone the girl's neglectful young mother, the old coot reluctantly lets her tag along -- and while the bond that soon forms between them is inevitable, it's so unaffected and peppered with little surprises that the film casts a melodious spell nonetheless.
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