Since the beginning of time, women have been viewed and treated like second class citizens. We are not encouraged to become educated or have aspirations beyond cooking, cleaning and bearing children. Think how challenging it must have been to be the daughter of the heavyweight champion of the world – Muhammad Ali and express this desire – yet Laila Ali did exactly that.
In a ‘Billy Elliott’ gender reversal with boxing at the center instead of ballet, Float Like a Butterfly, centers on a young Irish teen who aspires to become ‘The Greatest.’ Her dreams are dashed at every turn by friends and by the person she admires the most her Dad. From the producers of ‘Once’ and ‘Sing Street, Float Like a Butterfly puts effort into the story’s background of Frances’ family. Especially, the influences of her father, late mother and nana, the rich Irish background of tinkers and solid drama of Frances being tagged as a social reject. All these attributes contribute to making Frances’ story a strong one and one that audiences will root for.
I love that director/writer Carmel Winters wrote Frances as a character who fights not just to achieve her own coming of age, but to summon her father Michael to come of age as a fit parent. On a symbolic level, corrupt government robbed this family of its mother and without her, both father and daughter are lost. When her father returns after being jailed, Frances is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in love, solidarity and equality after having to take on role of mother and father in his absence. However, the mistake Michael makes is to imagine he can recover his own power by suppressing hers. Float Like a Butterfly effectively illustrates how toxic masculinity affects the loving alliance between daughter and father and turns it into a lose/lose scenario disguised as a win for father, lost for daughter.
Hazel Doupe (Frances) is perfection as the fiery, strong-willed redhead determined to watch her dreams become reality against all odds. As her father Michael, Dara Devaney has the charm, good looks and acting chops very reminiscent of Colin Farrell.
Attracted to the underdog nature of this film, it was no surprise to me that Float Like A Butterfly took home the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival today. Be on the lookout for release dates announced right here by The Curvy Film Critic.