This wonderful French film might serve your kids well as an introduction to subtitled foreign films, if you’ve not ventured there yet. I’ve got a couple other recommendations, but this one might be a good place to start. (I’m pretty sure The Butterfly would carry the equivalent of a G rating.)
The story is easy enough to follow that working on the subtitles without missing screen action will be fairly easy for kids around nine or ten. However, the story is not so simple that parents should shy away from it, lest they be bored. It’s a beautiful and entertaining film on many levels, and of course it’s shot in Paris and in the beautiful French countryside, and so is visually quite pleasing.
I watched this without K (who was in one of his increasingly more frequent tweener moods; “A butterfly? It’s about a butterfly?” [Sigh.] “No thanks.”) (Er, it’s not about a butterfly.) During the last half, I wished I’d twisted his arm, or been more cunning, because he surely would have enjoyed it. K has quite a capacity for emotional empathy (in film, anyway), and The Butterfly is full of quiet little twists and turns expounding on the difficulties of love, trust, parenting, and personal loss.
Claire Bouanich is the young actress playing Elsa, and she is -- sorry, there is no other word -- adorable in every shot. She’s a natural actress, and whether she’s up to a bit of mischief to turn things in her favor, or caught off guard when a deer in the woods falls victim to a poacher’s bullet, her expressions feel genuine and effortless. Many child actors just get by -- you have to admit it -- but this young lady possesses a true gift.
The late Michel Serrault (you may remember him from the wonderful, original La Cage aux Folles, in 1978, as Albin, one of the main characters) plays the cranky old butterfly collector with whom Elsa (rather duplicitously) takes to the mountains in search of the elusive “Isabelle” butterfly. I enjoyed seeing him not long ago in another French film with a similar theme, The Girl From Paris (not a kids’ movie: old, lonely crank befriended by young city woman who moves to the country). He plays a buttoned-up, reluctantly isolated old fellow with a rough charm and a just-soft-enough exterior that giving up on him is just not an option.
In true European fashion, there is one moment in the film that had me doing a double-take, and -- because this is what I do -- you are hereby warned that the adorable Elsa (eight years old, perhaps?) tells a sailor-style joke with the phrase “scratched his balls” in the punchline. I kid you not.
Oh, those wacky French.
Here's a pseudo-trailer, with clips of Serrault and Bouanich recording the charming closing song (sorry, I couldn't find a real trailer with English subtitles):