Ten-year-old Pete (Marc Donato) faces the hardships of a terrible brain tumor that has left him confined to a wheelchair, his sense of balance badly affected. Aware of his short time on this Earth, Pete clings to a great affinity for butterflies, with the blue morpho being the ultimate specimen he hopes to capture.
In a wonderful gesture, his devoted mother, Teresa (Pascale Bussières), seeks the expertise of the initially harsh entomologist, Alan (portrayed by William Hurt), to help realize Pete’s final wish.
Together, this odd trio embarks on a dramatic expedition into the depths of the jungle, seeking to make Pete’s dream a reality.
The film takes on an emotional note right from the first scene. The story becomes much more compelling when one realizes that the narrative is inspired by the true story of a terminally ill 10-year-old boy. At this point, I was expecting a heart-wrenching drama similar to what I’d seen in other Coming-of-Age films about cancer and the struggle for survival. (Oscar and the Pink Lady, The Cure, Matching Jack, Ways to Live Forever) – but it turned out that this was not the case with this film.
Embracing the wonders of nature and the joy of discovery are important themes in the film. The cinematography of Pierre Mignot (who fans of the Coming-of-Age genre might know from the short film, Alone with Mr. Carter) creates the impression of a documentary, with close-up shots of numerous insects and creatures found in the Costa Rican rainforest. It brought to mind Lamont Johnson‘s 1974 film, Visit to a Chief’s Son, which likewise has abundant animal and nature scenes.
Much of the story is told in third the person, yet there are a few touching instances when Pete recounts his thoughts and impressions in the first person, allowing the audience to get a better insight into his character. Marc Donato`s acting is good enough to make his character believable and engage one with his story.
The main themes of the film are hope and friendship (however unlikely the latter might be). Granted, the story might seem implausible to most adult viewers, yet some of them (including me, having fought and still fighting a cancer of my own) will be more than willing to forgo some disbelief in the name of hope (for it is said hope dies last).
The ending came as a surprise and, while the viewer may, at times, feel they’re being manipulated emotionally (as is the case with most serious dramas with similar plots), it makes the watching experience somewhat more emotive. The Blue Butterfly does not have such an ending and, what’s more, it inspires hope. We need more films like that.