The Butterfly (2002) - Plot Summary Poster

(I) (2002)


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  • This is the story of a young girl named Elsa who was raised by a single mother (Isabelle) in the city. Isabelle and Elsa begin the film moving in next door to an elderly man who collects butterflies (Julien). Isabelle who "spends a lot of time with her friends" does not pay much attention to her daughter who walks home because her mother forgot to pick her up from school. After meeting her new neighbor, Elsa finds out about the butterflies and in short annoys Julien for a while. Julien receives a mystery package from a fellow entomologist. Julien sets out on his annual attempt to find a rare species of butterfly that he had once promised his son he would find (son dead) in the French country side, specifically a region known as Vercors. Elsa stows away in his car. After being discovered she convinces him to let her come to Vercors with him. They bond while hiking and camping until Julien, who is initially annoyed by Elsa, near the end of the film seems to have a grandfather-granddaughter relationship with her. Elsa falls in a well. The police arrest Julien. Elsa tells everyone it is cool. Isabelle starts paying attention to her child. Julien and Elsa are friends. The mystery package contained a caterpillar which turned out to become the rare species of butterfly Julien set out to find. The species is called Isabelle. So Elsa finds her mother (Isabelle) and Julien finds the butterfly (Isabelle). Surprisingly happy feel for a french film.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In this family-friendly movie, Julien (Michel Serrault), a collector of butterflies, seeks to find the rare Isabelle Butterfly at the request of his now deceased brother. Before he begins his journey to the Alps for this year's search, he meets 8 year old Elsa (Claire Bouanich), a girl with a very unattending mother. Julien agrees to bring Elsa along on his search, not knowing that Elsa's mother never approved or knew about this. As they hike through the mountains and hills of the Alps, we learn more about both characters, their personalities, and their lives. Meanwhile, Elsa's mother (Nade Dieu) notices that her daughter is missing, and calls the police to begin searching for her missing daughter. Julien and Elsa scale the mountains, avoiding the police without even knowing that they were being searched for. As the reach a suitable place to find the sought after butterfly, they set up camp and wait. We discover that the Isabella only lives for 3 days, and 3 nights, and only shows up during a very short period of time, if it appears at all. One fateful night, the rare insect appears. Julien instantly notices, and goes over to admire it. He calls Elsa over, but as she approaches, she stumbles and topples the set-up to attract butterflies. The Isabella is then lost. Julien, furious over his great loss, drives Elsa away, not caring where she goes. The girl then proceeds to leave, and fall in a deep hole in the ground. Julien eventually, overcome with guilt, searches for the girl and finds her in the hole. At that time, the police catch up withthe two in their search. The girl is removed from the hole she fell in, and reunited with her distraught mother. Julien is arrested, as it is assumed he kidnapped the girl. Later Julien is released, and he becomes good friends with both the girl and her mother. Near the end, Julien then shows the excited little girl the hatching of a Chrysalis. Finally, at the end of this great family film, we discover Elsa's mother, Isabelle, reveals that she had her daughter at 16, and that she's had trouble feeling close connection to the girl. The film then ends at this note. This movie is only available in French, but there are English subtitles.

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