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July 31, 2018

Butterfly Kiss

by Franz Patrick


Butterfly Kiss (1995)
★ / ★★★★

Eunice (Amanda Plummer) goes into petrol stations and tells the receptionists she is looking for a record. She cannot remember the title of the song so she hums it. After getting a response, she proceeds to ask if the person she is speaking with is named Judith. When her guess is incorrect, Eunice gets upset and kills the woman before her. When the disturbed Eunice encounters Miriam (Saskia Reeves), the outcome is different. Miriam takes her home for the night, they sleep together, and they eventually embark on a cross-country road trip.

Halfway through “Butterfly Kiss,” directed by Michael Winterbottom, I began to wonder if the picture was doing anything for me. Is it supposed to be a drama about a killer and her accomplice? A love story between two women? A dark comedy about lust, how it blinds, and how it renders the inflicted incapable of being tethered to her morality? Is it a portrait of two fractured minds meeting, melding, and fracturing? It could be any one, a combination of a few, or all of these things. I just did not care.

Events unfold for the sake of the plot but the film is photographed flatly. There is an umbrage that follows the two characters which grow increasingly monotonous. It does not flinch when the central characters go through emotions such as joy, anger, confusion, or heartbreak. The minds of Miriam and Eunice are obviously detached from reality but it does not mean our relationship with the film ought to be disconnected, too.

The so-called build-up to the shocking kills are formulaic. A new face is introduced. There is a bit of tête-à-tête as words of flattery are thrown in the air. After a stranger engages with Eunice, the countdown begins. We are reduced to waiting for someone to deliver the fatal blow or a person entering the next scene with blood on her clothing. After the third kill, we know that no one will bother to do the right thing.

Miriam speaking to directly to camera, shot in black-and-white, is sandwiched between the gruesome murders and the couple arguing about trust. Her confessions are not revelatory or mesmerizing. They do not provide insight to her actions or inaction. She claims that she sees a goodness in Eunice but where is the goodness in leaving a trail of bodies from one pitstop to another? Eventually, it begins to feel like a bunch of irrational rambling.

If there is one thing that is undeniably strong in “Butterfly Kiss,” written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, it is Plummer’s performance. She demands attention because, through her body language, she is able to construct a reality where Eunice is capable of anything. She is not afraid of rules or repercussions. Every line delivery has a fiery swagger that threatens to turn into a wildfire. Her eyes are razor sharp, willing to tear someone into shreds with a blink. It is unfortunate that the film is an interminable bore because Eunice is a specimen worthy of assessment under a different set of lights.

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