How far is too far when a child has been lost? In the wake of his young daughter’s abduction and brutal murder, a grieving father becomes fixated with an oddball neighbour who he believes committed the crime in Tyler Wayne’s schlocky thriller Goodbye, Butterfly.
The best part of Goodbye, Butterfly is the first scene. Ryan Olson (Adam Donshik) is putting his five-year-old daughter, Mia (Addison Ross), to bed. She’s spirited, precocious and smart; an easy, affectionate rapport with her father, as he tries to persuade her to sleep. The very next scene shows her bloodied body discarded in a woodland forest. An expansive opening montage details the aftermath with the Olson’s receiving the tragic news, mourning, angrily confronting the police, and Ryan’s wife descending into pill use. Ryan becomes suspicious of his neighbour Stan (Andrew Lauer) and when spying on him, he believes he sees him holding the butterfly hairclip Mia was wearing on the day of her murder. He then enlists his friend and ex-convict, Tyler (played by the director himself), to assist him in capturing Stan and taking revenge.
Another film that wrangles with the moral ramifications following child abduction is Dennis Villeneuve’s Prisoners starring Hugh Jackman. When his daughter and her friend go missing, Jackman’s Keller Dover also fixates on a local man with his suspicions and desperation driving him towards torture. Jackman’s simmering portrayal of the lengths a father will go to to find answers is intense and unnerving. We know what Keller is doing is wrong, but it forces us to question what our own actions would be if placed in such a traumatic situation. By contrast, what takes place in Goodbye, Butterfly is aggressively mediocre, stifling any emotional connection, moral judgement or otherwise.
Ryan takes a back seat to Tyler who with his ex-con credentials oversees Stan’s apprehension. Denying any involvement Stan begs to be freed and it soon becomes clear that neither Ryan nor Tyler really know what they’re doing. But rather than this reflecting Ryan’s unease and conflicting emotions, which it perhaps may have been had Donshik been left to this task alone, any solemnity is interrupted by Tyler’s awkward, offbeat manner, and each scene becomes near farcical. Never quite reaching dark comedy, although it seems the film isn’t intentionally aiming for it, the gravity of the circumstances and even Ryan’s pain, feels entirely undermined by terrible writing. None of this is helped by a derivative score that is used repetitively and adds to the atmosphere of a made-for-TV-movie.
The only relief we’re granted from the excruciating(-ly bad) events taking place at Stan’s is through Detective Ivy Hammett (Marie Burke), earnestly investigating Mia’s murder and Ryan’s concerns involving Stan. Hammett serves to add risk to Ryan and Dan’s ill-thought out plan, as the investigation brings her unexpected presence at Ryan’s home and confronts him once more with the weight of his actions if his suspicions are unfounded.
The film continues to circle the drain as another girl goes missing and Wayne attempts to manoeuvre Ryan’s quest for revenge into trying to redeem himself by getting a confession and locating the missing girl. Starting at a TV movie level and descending into soap territory, before culminating in an ending that makes Hollyoaks production values look akin to a Michael Bay blockbuster; Tyler’s feature sinks into parody.
Given the sensitive subject matter, there’s little doubt Wayne is sincere in his efforts to tell the story, but with a stale script and some frankly ludicrous story elements that drown out Donshik’s attempts to emote, it becomes too much for the film to overcome. Burke’s Detective does a serviceable job with what she’s given and Lauer’s Stan is as passable as any episodic turn in Criminal Minds or Law and Order: SVU – albeit, not one of the memorable ones. Despite an engaging opening scene that hints at the promise of a poignant, if painful story, the rest of Goodbye, Butterfly, unfortunately, can’t be watched with anything other than confusion and bemusement.
Goodbye, Butterfly will be available for audiences everywhere on Amazon Prime beginning on April 15th, 2021, the film is also available on all TVOD platforms for those who don’t have Amazon Prime across the North American continent.