Road trip movies cover a lot of ground in their runtime. Whether it be ninety minutes, two hours, or, like Theodore Schaefer’s film, Giving Birth to a Butterfly, seventy-seven minutes. It starts with what seems like a tale of a working-class American family and then turns into a mysterious and dream-like journey for the film's central characters ending with a lot more questions than answers.
Giving Birth to a Butterfly begins with a family full of offbeat characters.Diana (Annie Parisse) is the glue that keeps this family together in the sense that everything is on her shoulders. She’s a pharmacist who pays for everything in the house, while her husband, Daryl (Paul Sparks), dreams of owning a restaurant after he leaves behind his current job at a down-and-out food joint. Diana and Daryl have two children, Drew (Owen Campbell) and Danielle (Rachel Resheff). Things get shaken up in the house when Drew brings home his girlfriend, Marlene (Gus Birney), who is pregnant, but Drew is not the father. During family dinner, Drew announces that he is taking on the reins of parenthood. Everyone feels supportive of this choice — everyone but Diana. We see it all over her face that she is someone who, despite all her efforts within the household, is unheard and unseen most of the time. She’s hit with another problem; she becomes a victim of identity theft. Diana takes the initiative to track down the thief, and when she learns of the address of the person who has done this, she decides to pay them a visit. Despite the awkward dynamic between Diana and Marlene, she allows her son's girlfriend to tag along. Thus setting off on a road trip with the pair.
On this road trip, things start feeling dreamlike and creep up on the viewer.The film has often been compared to Twin Peaks or anything in David Lynch’s filmography. The film was shot on a 16-millimeter film, which helps give an eerie feel to the look of the film. There are discussions between Diana and Marlene that make it seem like they were supposed to do this together because they are both at significant crossroads. One is a woman with a family who is starting to question if her choices in life were the right thing to do. The other is a woman about to start a family whose future seems uncertain. Then you see visuals that make you question the reality of the film. The supporting characters have a quirkiness about them, and to some, that may overstay its welcome. Yet, it also gives the film’s two leads a springboard to make their character arcs progress through the strange dream-like world of the movie's second half. The film is now streaming exclusively on Fandor. A perfect platform for it to be on, side by side with other offbeat indies.
Giving Birth to a Butterfly may not be the average moviegoer’s cup of tea, but once the credits roll, you’ll find yourself talking about it long after.