Greetings from the Underground!
A day in the life of teenagers has been the subject of many films. John Hughes brought the genre to the forefront with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club, to name a few. What made those films a success is that they felt like they were in tune with the real world that teens lived in. There is a new indie film called Butterflies… that has the spirit of a John Hughes flick but is intended for the current generation of teens.
Butterflies… is based on the book “Party” from Tom Leveen. It is the story of a group of teenagers living in a California town at the end of the school year. This assortment of teenagers celebrate the occasion by going to the same house party. We follow the groups over the course of the evening and see how their lives interconnect with one another, the events that led them to gather, and how those events will impact their lives forever.
The film opens with graduates Brent and Max talking about the party. Brent, played by Jordy Tulleners, almost immediately breaks the 4th wall. This is something that each character will do at least once. It took me aback, and I thought I was in for a “Ferris Bueller” type film. Having each of the characters break the fourth wall was a bold choice but also one that helps the audience connect with these individuals by pulling the viewer into the story. The storyline covers many serious subjects that teens face today; each character is at the center of one of those subjects. The entire cast does a fantastic job of embodying the teens and staying grounded.
Sara Catherine Bellamy puts in one of the strongest emotional performances in the film as Beckett. Beckett is the introverted one who is having a hard time being alone after the passing of her mother. Through her we explore the idea of grief and suicide in a way that will pull at your heart strings. You will want to sit down with her and assure her that everything will be ok.
Another stand out performance is Alex Lecca as Max. He is a nice guy who has dreams but his self-esteem issues hold him back. This is a relatable and grounded character. I was rooting for him the entire time. His buddy Brent, on the other hand, is rather the opposite. Jordy Tuellners plays this a-hole to a T. I did not like this character, but I think that was the intention. You feel sorry for him but can’t excuse his actions, no matter how much he tries to justify it to the audience.
Ebin Antony is endearing in his role as Azize. Azize is from Turkey and helps his father run the local falafel stand. I loved how Antony played Azize as a guy who is always trying to stay upbeat even in difficult circumstances. Azize continues to have a smile on his face throughout the film…until he doesn’t. We see Antony flip the switch and show us another side of his character. You are not going to like all of the characters, but you will feel sympathy and understand where they are coming from, at least a little bit.
Kevin Van Stevenson manages to rein in the melodrama just enough so that it doesn’t become distracting. He still allows the emotion of the scenes to breathe. The majority of the story was grounded in real life, with only a few scenes where Stevenson gets a bit more ‘fantastical’ and these scenes were effective at moving the plot forward. The camera work and audio was solid. There were a number of rough spots in the editing where the continuity of a few shots did not match up, but these were minor moments.
Butterflies… is like if Sixteen Candles and Paul Haggis’ 2004 Crash were blended together with a dash of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It is emotionally heavy with a message, but doesn’t get overly preachy. It is not a perfect film, but it is one of the better indie dramas in the past few years.