The Butterfly Tattoo

2008 December 2

The Butterfly TattooDir Phil Hawkins

Starring: Duncan Stuart, Jessica Blake, Aidan Magrath

 Screened at the Cornerhouse








Based on the novel (of the same name) by Phillip Pullman, The Butterfly Tattoo is a heart warming and engaging love affair that almost flawlessly merges a drama and thriller together.

Chris (Duncan Stuart) is an intelligent yet naïve teenager working a summer job for an Oxford electrical firm. His life is far from perfect but seemingly peaceful enough however when he meets the free-spirited Jenny (Jessica Blake), things begin to change. What transpires is a slow and meticulous relationship between the two. At times it feels a little stilted as both Chris and Jenny are extremely shy and equally ineffectual at expressing their feelings to each other. However it does serve to add an extra layer of realism to the film. They don’t kiss when they first meet and they don’t have sex on the first date, instead they simply get to know each other (take heed non-romantics of the world).

Like any good screen romance things begin to turn sour. Conniving Oxford toff Piers (Dan Morgan) attempts to throw a spanner in the works by picking apart Jenny’s life while Chris becomes embroiled in the shady past of his boss, Barry (Aidan Magrath). The latter third of the film sees a gradual slide into thriller territory as more and more of Barry’s past is revealed as well as his connection to mysterious gangster Carson. Chris and Jenny’s relationship is largely put on hold as the mystery develops and although the thriller elements are exciting, the real magic lies with the teenager lovers.

Visually the film remains stunning throughout. The crisp and clean setting of Oxford provides a perfect backdrop to the summer love that unfolds but also creates a good juxtaposition to the Carson subplot. The indie band soundtrack that permeates throughout the film also helps transport you to a rich and enticing world.

The characters of Chris, Jenny and Piers are all played by largely unknown actors but it certainly pays off. There is a raw and emotional quality to the acting and this only helps a film that overflows with professionalism. Overall the film is a rare gem, from the landscape painting beauty of Oxford to the raw and refreshing relationship between Chris and Jenny; everything is neatly tied together with brilliance and vigour. The change of genre only helps supplement an already engaging story and largely prepares you for the tragedy outlined at the start of the film.

Despite the film being low budget the quality is high, both in terms of plot and visuals. It’s not a wholly original film but the relationship between Chris and Jenny had me hooked and although I love thrillers I wanted their relationship to be given as much screen time as possible. From the music to the amazing script by first time scriptwriter Stephen Potts, the film is largely flawless and when it gets a proper release it will be a film that I will see again and again.


Joshua Douglas-Walton



Editor's Choice

3 Responses leave one →
  1. 2008 December 11
    Peter Blake permalink

    “The indie band soundtrack that permeates throughout the film also helps transport you to a rich and enticing world.”

    Check out ‘Bridges’, which is in the film at

  2. 2008 December 11
    clubvodka permalink

    It’s a great song!

  3. 2017 June 9
    Bucataru Vlad permalink

    Simply put…it’s a very good movie. I watched it 5 times… I think… and I still want to watch it. It’s a heartbreaking, heartworming movie, a bit “dangerous” to watch, with beautifully linked frames. The songs really emphasize the moments, and the fact that they derive from unsigned bands, make them that much more appealing. The cast is also genius.

    The monument, where they first meet, on the first date…it’s the Martyr’s Monument, in Oxford. It’s really beautiful…look it up, they don’t show it in the film, not all of it at least.

    P.S. I’m sorry if I misspelled anything, or any others mistakes. I’m from Romania and I lost my bond with the english language 2 years ago.

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