Carmel Winters sophomore work Float Like a Butterfly is the type of film that telegraphs where it will end up in the opening minutes. Not that it would be hard to figure out anyway given the film’s premise. The film follows a young Irish teenager named Frances (Hazel Doupe), who idolizes boxer Muhammad Ali, as she struggles to reconnect with her estranged father, Michael (Dara Devaney), recently released from prison. However, it is the journey, and not the destination, that makes Winters film worth one’s time.
After an incident with bigoted police officers results in the death of her mother and the arrest of her father, Frances is determined to not let anyone push her or her younger brother around. Living in a gypsy-style Travellers community with her grandparents, and using bales of hay as punching bags, Michael’s emergence disrupts everyone’s life. Prone to drinking his sorrows away and adhering to old macho stereotypes that believe young women should not be participating in things like boxing; Michael decides to take his kids on a caravan with the purpose of marrying off his independent daughter.
Tackling both gender and economic inequality in a digestible way, Float Like a Butterfly effectively shows how they impact a community. Linking the injustice towards black people in America to the way the poor Irish Travellers were treated, Winter’s film manages to feel both compact and universal at the same time. This is especially true when it contemplates the struggle to stay true to one’s heritage while simultaneously adapting to an evolving world. Using Irish folk songs as the unifying element between old and new, Winters constructs a charming coming-of-age tale that rises above its formulaic beats.
Float Like a Butterfly may not carry the sting of a bee, but it is worth stepping in the ring with.
Monday, September 10, 7 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, September 11, 3:15 PM, Scotiabank