(Spanish and English dialogue)
Shot largely in South London with a mixed Hispanic-British cast, “The Butterfly Effect” is an offbeat, culture-clash comedy that attempts with varying success to show the similarities between human relationships and chaos theory. Rushed onto Spanish screens in time for Christmas, pic has been well reviewed at home, but offshore chances are likely to be limited by the culturally specific nature of the material and continual switching between Spanish and English in the dialogue.
Shy, studious Luis (played by rock singer Coque Malla) and his domineering mom, Noelia (Rosa Maria Sarda), go to London to stay with her sister, Olivia (Maria Barranco). Olivia is in a passionate but unstable relationship with loudmouthed TV actor Duncan (Peter Sullivan), by whom she has a child. Next door lives nerdy bachelor, and “Star Trek” fan, Oswald (James Fleet).
Pic is a little slow in locking all the characters into position, but the plot picks up speed once Noelia flies back to Spain, where her businessman husband is awaiting trial for fraud. After being spotted bedding a girl (Cecile Pallas) at a party, Duncan moves out, clearing the way for Luis to bring order to Olivia’s chaotic life.
Aunt and nephew finally get it on during a weekend trip to the coast. Pic piles on more chaos, when Noelia returns and discovers what’s going on, before rushing to a conventional tie-up.
Helmer Fernando Colomo has a rep for light, fail-safe, Madrid-based comedies, which tend neither to disappoint nor excite. (His best so far is the 1987 “La Vida alegre.”) Performances here are fresh and professional, with the breathless Barranco and hysterical Sarda, both Colomo veterans, totally inhabiting their characters. As the vague, bumbling neighbor, Fleet basically re-creates his role of Tom in “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Malla lacks the experience to give the role of Luis the dramatic substance it needs.
Script is generally bright and intelligent, and technique of having characters occasionally comment on the action direct to camera is effectively used. But the idea of harnessing human relationships to chaos theory never really gets off the ground. Despite oblique swipes at Spanish political corruption, this is basically a light comedy, the dialogue its main strength. Jean Francois Robin’s camera successfully evokes a chilly, color-drained London, and music by flamenco-rock group Ketama is appropriately upbeat.