After Party Blues: ‘Our Review of Nadia, Butterfly’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical, What's Streaming? by - September 20, 2020
After Party Blues: ‘Our Review of Nadia, Butterfly’

French Canadian director-writer Pascal Plante probably had different plans for Nadia, Butterfly. He seems to have made it as a timely look at the titular athlete’s (Katerine Savard) journey during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Now that the IOC cancelled those games and for good reason, this film then serves as an alternate history. Yet it still a good way to show that existential crises can pop up anytime. But before such crises arrive, the film’s first act culminates in a relay where she and her fellow swimmers give Team Canada a bronze. The film makes that medal feel more like an intimate victory than a larger one.

That victory happens in an Olympic pool in front of spectators. Nadia, Butterfly makes its audience feel those spectators energy even if it shoots them in soft focus. But since dramas are dramas, it gives as much focus to smaller battles that, of course, are harder to win. Nadia becomes part of a little post-victory gathering. And she tries to parse out how the selfish nature of athletes hinders them from having proper relationships, which turns into a little fight. Sports dramas are always about heightened emotions, so it’s commendable that this film approaches its scenes calmly.

The film depicts the early scenes like a documentary until the warm colors declare that it’s showing Nadia’s life like a fictional drama. It has its share of fantasy sequences. One sequence starts out where she and her teammate (Arianna Mainville) go to a party. She brings along  a Lebanese fencer (Eli Jean Tahchi) who she eventually spends the night with. And that scene cuts to her in her party dress deep in a pool. Some might see that sequence as indulgent and disorienting. But again, there’s something peaceful about this. That’s true in knowing that she’s letting herself have fun in what she decides is her last Olympics ever.

A more valid nitpick against this film is how it depicts Tokyo. And it takes an ambivalent approach to Nadia’s relationship with a city that she only visits instead of experiences. It’s a place that, at first, it only shows through Olympic pools and parties. Which, fairly enough, is the experience of someone who flies around the world for business instead of for pleasure. She finally takes a break from swimming and press interviews and meetings. More city scenes wouldn’t hurt the film, although the film’s close-ups on Nadia observing Tokyo are delightful enough.

And what a face Savard has. She evinces genuine emotion for Nadia during nuanced confrontations with her coach (Pierre Yves-Cardinal). They both look young but it’s as if they’ve worked with each other for half of their lives. Savard’s a real swimmer working as an actress for the first time with Cardinal, who’s been at it for 15 years now. But both do the job of actors well, expressing a decades long friendship in a minute. And Savard is great when she’s alone too, expressing a contemplative nature that goes well with a film that’s beautifully bittersweet.

Audiences in Toronto can watch Nadia, Butterfly, for some reason, at the Varsity Cinemas.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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