In “The Elephant and the Butterfly,” Antoine (Thomas Blanchard), mild and bearded, with a look of telegraphed regret, shows up at the home of his former partner, Camille (Judith Chemla), to ask how she’s doing. She laughs in his face, just about choking on her sarcastic chuckles. These two haven’t seen each other in five years, and she, for one, is fluent in the harsher dialect of post-divorce (that is, barely disguised loathing). Since they have a young daughter, Elsa (Lina Doillon), who lives with her mother, we’re curious to see how the hostility will play out.
An odd fact is then revealed. Elsa, who is five, has no idea who Antoine is. But her long stare follows him out the window, with a look that says, “There’s something about him…”There are, of course, middle-class fathers who’ve never gotten to know their children — or, more accurately, have abandoned them. It happens every day. But Antoine, in his 40-year-old-geek-in-a-leather-jacket way, doesn’t strike you as that kind of dude. He’s too sensitive and doleful, an aging bourgeois puppy. That makes this set-up a bit of a set-up. It feels contrived and vaguely off-kilter — and, in fact, what happened between Antoine and Camille is never explained. Neither is the fact that he has shown no interest in his daughter. “The Elephant and the Butterfly” is a movie too cool-headed and present tense for backstory [ . . . ]
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