In the relentlessly bleak military drama “Butterfly Vision,” Lilia (Rita Burkovska) is a Ukrainian drone pilot struggling to readjust to life on the home front after enduring months in captivity at the hands of Russian separatists in the Donbas region.
The story begins as Lilia makes the trek home, where she tends to an array of keloid scars and a flood of disturbing memories. She receives limited support from her anguished mother (Myroslava Vytrykhovska-Makar) and even less from her husband, Tokha (Lyubomyr Valivots), an extremist militia member who seems capable of accessing only two frames of mind: seething rancor or violent rage.
This series of upsetting events grows even more dire, though, after we learn that Lilia was raped while captive and has become pregnant as a result.
From the outset, the director, Maksym Nakonechnyi, establishes a cinematic language that incorporates footage from various sources: livestream feeds, aerial drone video, broadcast news B-roll. Perhaps the film’s most audacious choice is to use the texture of these formats — their lags, distortion and pixelation — when conveying Lilia’s daily torrent of post-traumatic stress. The effect is jarring, and feels less like a window into her experience than a brash camera trick.
But “Butterfly Vision” distinguishes itself in its setting. The film was made before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and its story captures an early wartime phase when attitudes toward the conflict were divided. In one scene, Lilia boards a bus and claims exemption from the fare because of her status as a veteran. Vexed and disapproving, the driver and passengers raise a ruckus until she disembarks. The film might aim to deliver an aesthetic and emotional jolt, but it is the mundane, interpersonal moments that linger.
Not rated. In Ukrainian, English and Russian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. Watch on Mubi.