It was a few years ago that I first learned of actress Whitney Wegman-Wood. I’m pretty glad that I kept up with her this entire time, as often as I like to try and help spotlight up-and-comers in entertainment, and it helps that she’s a strong, competent and talented actress capable of carrying intense and complex characters and stories. Going on to make her case in Patrick Rea’s crowdfunded short, The Last Butterflies, the impact is as real as it is intentional, and all the more compelling.
At the time, it was Wegman-Wood who stepped up and led the charge to campaign the project on Indiegogo. In her campaign video, she talks about the series of anxiety dreams she kept having around the end of 2019, and how it resulted in severe insomnia to the point where she up and decided one evening to turn her suffering into a creative solution. That resolve brought forth the development of Wegman-Wood’s new cinematic endeavor for a story with a very thin logline at the time which read the following: How far are you willing to go at the end of the world?…
Setting the stage is a medley of news reports illustrating a global calamity at hand, followed by the shot of a distraught woman (Wegman-Wood) in the process of what looks like a remote burial in-progress in the woods. These moments are the precursor to a story that jumps back-and-forth in time as we meet said woman and her husband (Cooper Andrews) as they struggle to come to terms with a world now on the brink following a slew of environmental disasters. The highs and lows are on full display as we watch the two work to take care of their daughter while mitigating circumstances that often, much to the wife’s chagrin, compel the husband to intervene in situations that could (and do) get violent.
You get the sense that The Last Butterflies takes a page or two from recent series faves, barring zombies or any of your preferred horror tropes a la Romero or Boyle. There’s nothing like that here. Nonetheless, the writing here aptly contributes to the aesthetic and adds some palatable entertainment value. More importantly, the core journey we see in between time jumps during the film’s 27-minute duration hinges on a more psychological framework that dismisses any notion of ideal commercial appeal. In a nutshell, this shortfilm is a dark tale, and, depending on whatever filter you’re using to absorb the events in afterthought, will undoubtedly leave you with plenty to mull over as the end credits roll.
In doing so, it’s crucial to reiterate that this is Wegman-Wood’s story, told with keen direction from Rea, shaped and sharpened from one night of raw inspiration by an artist alone with her own thoughts and looking for an avenue through which to channel them. With Wegman-Wood’s performance leading the way in The Last Butterflies, you get a gripping and compelling tale of survival, bookended with a reverberating cut-to-black finish that guarantees, with certainty, viewers will defer to the query in the initial logline.
Also, and again, there is no other particular guideline or context to gauge this story other than the words of our star and screenwriter, whose intentions to craft something heavy, emotional and resounding enough to leave you thinking are on full display, no matter your filter for film analysis. Asseverations of nihilism among other skewed opinions be damned, The Last Butterflies takes full advantage of subjectivity to cover all aspects of humanity, including the ones that sometimes keep us up at night.
Check out the teaser:
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.