Director Jose Luis Cuerda's new film Butterfly delicately balances the youth of a young boy in the midst of turmoil in Spain. The young boy in question is Moncho (Manuel Lozano), who is beginning his first year of kindergarten. Based on A Wall and a Panel by Manuel Rivas, the events in Butterfly take place in days before the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Republic hangs precariously, while Moncho remains blissfully unaware of these issues.

Moncho is deathly terrified of school. Asthma problems prevented him from going until now, but he can already read. He is curious about everything around him and wants to learn, unlike the other children in his class. Lozano's wide round eyes and apple cheeks radiate innocence and a desire to let everything sink in. He is also shy and awkward around other children. His teacher Don Gregorio (legendary Spanish actor Fernando Fernan Gomez, The Grandfather, All About My Mother) takes an interest in him, in a way becoming almost like a father. Moncho begins to learn about the world through Gregorio and his new friends at school. He learns that butterflies have tongues (the Spanish name of the movie is The Butterfly's Tongue), that people fall in love, and "hump" each other, and of course, has his first kiss. Gomez gives an impassioned performance as Gregorio. He has his own fervent beliefs, but will not let them get in the way of educating children. Gregorio may be frail in body, but his mind is sharp and strong.

Rafael Azcona's adaptation manages to do the difficult; to show the world through the eyes of a child. Both Moncho's father and Gregorio are ardent Republicans, but this means nothing to Moncho. Adults speak about mature issues, and all of it goes over Moncho's head. The movie is full of gentle humor (something conspicuously absent from today's blockbusters) that does not mock people, but the situations they get themselves into. Events that may make perfect sense to adults elicit curiosity from children. Moncho's questions about the world are thoroughly amusing, and his observations are keen. Shot beautifully in the woods, the entire movie feels lush and almost evocative of a fairy tale. Butterfly nears the point of cheesiness, but does not ever quite pass over the line.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for a strong sex scene.

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