The film shows immense creativity, especially given the low budget. However, it does lack some emotional weight towards the end.
The Butterfly Queen is an indie horror/fantasy film that premiered in the USA on the 16th of October 2022. It was directed by Liam O’Connor-Genereaux whose aim for the film was to create “a queer-inhabited fairy-tale that was driven by the twists and turns of trying to keep your friendships alive.”. The Butterfly Queen follows two former best friends Casey, played by Kade Pintado, and Robin, played by Sophia Anthony, as they enter an alternate realm in search of Casey’s prized sketchbook and slowly rebuild their bond. We begin the film where their friendship initially ended, at the end of high school where the pair realise their differing dreams and then re-enter their stories five years later after neither’s life has quite played out as expected.
For me, what made the film so brilliant was the creativity of the sets and costuming. Despite its status as an indie film, lending it to a smaller budget, the costumes were magnificent and created those fantastical elements in a completely believable manner. The fear with some indie films is that the costumes do not appear at all realistic due to budget constraints, but the creative team behind The Butterfly Queen have created fantastical characters that are the perfect amount of monster and human allowing them to assimilate perfectly into the world around them. Similarly, the use of the treehouse-esque set near the end of the film is an example of such high-quality CGI that is only possible because the team were so intentional with their artistic choices. They aimed for quality over quantity with many of the creative elements directing all of their technical skills at a few distinct moments allowing them to be fully formed and excellently executed consistently.
This film had a tiny budget in comparison to the typical Hollywood feature and yet succeeded in ways that Hollywood still fails. Its inclusion of queer characters in every aspect of the film without necessitating a romantic element was a breath of fresh air. It is so rare to simply see queer people existing on screen outside of stories of queer struggle. Whilst films highlighting the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community are crucial within the film industry, this film captures the opposite side of representation where queer people can simply exist in films in the same way that their straight co-stars have always been allowed to do.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and as such have very few critiques. The first would be that this film was pitched to me as a horror film which wasn’t a vibe I got from the film. However, as a fantasy/coming-of-age story, it functioned fantastically. The second was the use of music throughout as whilst it was present, there were many scenes where I felt it could have been much more impactful, specifically in the final fight scene. Especially when coupled with the stunning visuals and complex costuming, the music felt like it had been slightly sidelined in the creative process.
Both Kade Pintado and Sophia Anthony gave excellent performances and I found their friendship completely believable. Their struggles within the friendship are something that I found immediately recognisable and relatable. The difficulty of slowly growing apart from someone you have grown up with is a feeling many can empathize with, and this is what made the pair’s eventual reunion ever more satisfying. Their friendship was multi-layered and complex which meshed perfectly with the complex narrative world that O’Connor-Genereaux created.
The Butterfly Queen is set to premiere in the UK on the 29th of June as a part of the SOHOME Horror Pride 2023, Watch the trailer below: