Starring: Manuel Lozano, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Uxía Blanco
Director: José Luís Cuerda
Running Time: 96 mins
Butterfly Tongue (La lengua de las mariposas) is a Spanish film about a young boy living in Spain during the Civil War of the 1930s, whose childhood is gradually unravelled by the interference of the conflict in the lives of all those around him.
This is a film that should have the credentials of a big, emotional period drama, but it generally doesn’t manage that. Set in a small Spanish town, the gradual encroachment of the Civil War on the lives of the people should have been a lot more devastating, when juxtaposed with this young boy’s blissful coming of age, and the relationship with his teacher, but I was never really grabbed by the story, which left me disappointed.
That’s not to say that this is an awful film, because it’s not. The performances, particularly Fernando Fernán Gómez as the local schoolteacher with a special connection to the young boy, aren’t bad, and when the film is going for a happier, more poetic atmosphere, Cuerda’s direction manages to that a lot better.
The best scenes throughout the whole film are where we see the old schoolteacher and the young boy together, as the teacher teaches the boy about the world with all his wisdom. In those moments, you get a genuine sense of happiness, and you clearly see the idea of an almost father-son relationship, which is wonderful to see.
However, a lot of this film’s main intentions don’t really work out as well. Whilst we see the young boy’s coming of age in his relationship with his teacher, there are also some scenes where he and his friends or his brother go out and discover new things, but they don’t really work. Whilst the film is trying to convey a certain sense of a loss of innocence, what the boy sees is never really powerful enough to give you that impression.
And that’s unfortunately a common issue throughout this whole film. Whilst you get moments of happiness, the main intent of this film is to portray the way that the war is taking away this boy’s childhood, but it never really works out that well, which is very frustrating to see.
However, there is one moment where it does actually work, and exceptionally well. The final scene, which I of course won’t spoil, has the perfect level of emotional power to demonstrate the boy’s loss of innocence, as well as the effects of the Civil War on the Spanish population, and it was the only time throughout the whole film when I felt genuinely moved.
Overall, Butterfly Tongue is a film that, despite having its moments, is a disappointment. Lacking the emotional power to properly convey its message, I couldn’t get properly engrossed in the story, and that’s why it gets a 7.0 from me.