Black Butterflies

2012

Black Butterflies

Critics Consensus

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69%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 13

62%

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User Ratings: 881
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Movie Info

Poetry, politics, madness, and desire collide in the true story of the woman hailed as South Africa's Sylvia Plath. In 1960s Cape Town, as Apartheid steals the expressive rights of blacks and whites alike, young Ingrid Jonker (Carice van Houten) finds her freedom scrawling verse while frittering through a series of stormy affairs. Amid escalating quarrels with her lovers and her rigid father, a parliament censorship minister (Rutger Hauer), the poet witnesses an unconscionable event that will alter the course of both her artistic and personal lives. -- (C) Tribeca

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Critic Reviews for Black Butterflies

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (4)

  • Van Houten ... gives a strong performance as Jonker, and the cinematography is pleasing, but the script is cliché-ridden and ends on an overly sentimental note.

    Mar 2, 2012 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • The movie reminds you of the extent to which poetry has been marginalized as a cultural force since the early 1960s.

    Mar 1, 2012 | Rating: 4/5
  • Black Butterflies scarcely tries to illuminate the substance of Jonker's writing.

    Mar 1, 2012 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

    Sam Adams

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Black Butterflies is a dark, moving depiction of the life and death of a brave rebellious, idiosyncratic woman who made significant strides toward changing the world around her and paid a heavy toll for her passion.

    Feb 29, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • Always feels like a life schematically condensed rather than intimately explored.

    Feb 29, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Art, politics, and craziness conspire to form a rather mechanical melodrama in Black Butterflies...

    Feb 28, 2012 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Black Butterflies

  • Aug 01, 2013
    In 1960 South Africa, Jack Cope(Liam Cunningham) saves Ingrid Jonker(Carice van Houten) from drowning. They bond over the fact that they are both writers; his prose and her poetry. In short time, they fall in love as she moves into his house. But since somebody forgot to get their divorce finalized, marriage is off the table. Which might be for the best as Jack suspects Ingrid of being interested in anything in pants. "Black Butterflies" has all the elements of a good movie like history, literature, excellent cinematography, lots of period detail and Liam Cunningham who can simply do no wrong. What it does not have is any idea where to start, eventually getting to its point. In fact the movie should have spent more time in Ingrid's childhood, which is what formed who she would become, for better and worse, instead of reductively going for daddy issues.(Well, daddy(Rutger Hauer) was a government censor...) While Carice van Houten has a go for broke attitude, she does not have an equal level of talent that would allow her to breathe life into such a complicated person. In being a movie about an unconventionial and mentally unstable woman, the movie takes the most conventional approach possible by focusing on the relationship between Jack and Ingrid. In any case, these people's melodramatic issues cannot compare to those suffering under the heel of Apartheid at the same time.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2013
    Nice movie, albeit very slow, and depressing.
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 02, 2011
    Ingrid Jonker's poetry ranges from moving to easily forgettable, not enough to stick for her to be labeled the 'South African Sylvia Plath', that title is ignorant and if anything rude as it is based solely on her turbulent life and not her writing. It's essentially the same as saying Mordecai Richler is the Canadian Hemingway because he liked to drink. As for the biopic on Ingrid, 'Black Butterflies', it does have strong moments that moved me and the movie doesn't have a bias slant, it's up to the viewer to decide what they think of Jonker as a person. 'Black Butterflies' greatest asset is the, hopefully Oscar nominated or won, performance from Carice van Houten who shows a myriad sides of a complex women with ease that it's easy to forget Houten is acting. It doesn't hurt that she is stunning to look at and on that note the photography is something to be lauded. Sad to say, though, that everything totalled up is another biopic on another manic depressive poetess only with the unique position to make commentary on apartheid, which is touched on enough but the movie needed more dramatic pull, either from the father-daughter aspect or a deeper exploration of why Jonker was so promiscuous - just hinting at it being related to her father, even if the truth, is slight and does nothing for the biopic. A beautiful looking portrait, a somber drama, and a strongly acted biopic on an all-too-universal story.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer

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