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Review of Black Butterflies – an intriguing French thriller

October 15, 2022

This Black Butterflies Season 1 review is spoiler-free.

Butterflies in popular media always symbolize the delicacy of life, the sensitivity of fate to the faintest wing beats. So it shouldn’t be as surprising as the French in six parts netflix series black butterflies (otherwise called The Black Butterflies) is based on the idea that love, fate and life depend on the cross-currents of so many tiny competing factors; the right people being at the right time, their union reverberating through history and their actions making all history.

Anyway, that’s the best way to put it. Another way is this: black butterflies is about a struggling novelist named Adrien, who works as a ghost writer instead of his own original ideas, meeting and agreeing to write the memoir of an elderly man named Albert. But he soon realizes that he’s not telling a love story with the hindsight of a twilight life, but the confessions of serial killers – and he wasn’t cast as scribe on a whim.

Created and written by Bruno Merle and Olivier Abbou, black butterflies explores the novelist’s fascination with the macabre and how there is a close relationship between the best and the worst of things; between love and hate, life and death, passion and brutality. Albert, an islander and victim of bullying as a child, is dying and wants to share his life from the moment he met his love, Solange, and their story began to be embroiled in violence.

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The crux of the story lies in the relationship between Adrien and Albert, but also in the story told, and the potential punishment for his darker turns, manifested in the present day by a police officer named Carrel. It’s a classic narrative configuration of parallel strands that gradually intertwine, united by common themes, characters and ideas, and rise to tension and violence.

The gothic qualities of black butterflies make it well-suited for an October release – it’s not strictly a horror production, but it can be gruesome, and that makes an looming presence of its atmosphere. He also deliberately blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and imagination, tying ideas together in metaphors, heavy biblical illusions and specific imagery. It’s the kind of show you’re likely to think about for quite a while after its conclusion, putting together various pieces that give it some staying power beyond the obvious pull of the twists and turns of the narrative.

At the end of the six episodes, there may remain a sense that everything isn’t entirely tied together in a satisfying way, but that’s the risk you run when dealing with this kind of deliberate obfuscation. Perhaps the goal is to never quite understand, to always wonder if there has been some overlooked detail or missed involvement. Some viewers will inevitably find this frustrating, but most will likely find it an intriguing side effect of a brief but compelling series.

You can stream Black Butterflies Season 1 exclusively on Netflix.

Further reading:

  • The Black Butterflies ending explained.
  • Will there be a season 2 of Black Butterflies?
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