Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Nadia, played by Katerine Savard, is an Olympic swimmer in her twenties, faced with the challenges of her imminent retirement.

Nemesis Films

  • Nadia, Butterfly
  • Written and directed by Pascal Plante
  • Starring Katerine Savard, Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Ariane Mainville
  • Classification 14A; 107 minutes

rating

2.5 out of 4 stars


There is an unintentional element of alternate history at play in Nadia, Butterfly. Partially taking place at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, director Pascal Plante’s new drama was conceived with the expectation that such an event would take place – it’s not his fault the movie now plays like science fiction.

A former competitive swimmer himself, Pascal Plante, right, brings an athlete’s eye to the tale of Nadia who decides to retire early for medical school.

Nemesis Films

Mostly, though, Plante’s film is a grounded look at what happens when an athlete in their prime decides to walk away, and how anyone could possibly rebuild their identity after a lifetime of doing one specific thing very, very well. Plante would know: the Quebecois filmmaker is a former competitive swimmer who almost represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics. Naturally, he brings an athlete’s eye to the tale of Nadia (Katerine Savard), who after helping Canada bring home a bronze in the 4x100-metre medley relay, decides to set her sights on medical school, even though, as one television reporter tells her, she’s got “four more years left” to win some gold.

Story continues below advertisement

What follows is a low-key character study of a woman at a crossroads, with Nadia required to balance her own desires with the commitments she’s implicitly made to her teammates. The route that Plante takes to get Nadia from doubtful to hopeful is fairly standard – she cries, she attempts to drink her confusion away during one wild night of Tokyo partying, she has a heart-to-heart with her fellow Quebecois teammate – but because the filmmaker is doing so in a rather novel milieu, his drama is slightly elevated.

As written by Plante, Nadia is a woman at constant war with her instincts, requiring a performer to find a way to wordlessly convey such tension on-screen.

Nemesis Films

Also unusual is Plante’s decision to cast Savard, herself a Canadian swimmer who holds several national records in the freestyle and, ahem, butterfly swim events, and has competed at the Commonwealth Games. It makes sense that Plante would want another athlete to help him import the real-world elements of competition into his fiction, but while Savard has her moments – including a deep cry backstage after capturing the bronze – she is not strong enough to do the heavy emotional lifting that the film’s script requires. As written by Plante, Nadia is a woman at constant war with her instincts, requiring a performer to find a way to wordlessly convey such tension on-screen. Savard mostly offers faraway stares, frequently looking lost and in need of micro-managed direction.

Like Nadia’s go-strong-go-tough coach (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), though, I might be going to hard on Plante’s work. The film has already had a tough run of bad luck: initially selected for a Cannes premiere before that festival was cancelled, Nadia, Butterfly might have enjoyed a more receptive audience on the Croisette. Arriving in Canadian theatres this week without the anticipated Cannes buzz, the film is not quite a medallist. But it’s certainly a spirited contender.

Nadia, Butterfly opens in Toronto and select Quebec theatres Sept. 18

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies