Literature related videos and movie previews, Movies based off of books

In the Time of the Butterflies Movie Review

In the Time of the Butterflies Movie ReviewIn the Time of the Butterflies Movie Review

I was perusing my husband’s Hulu+ account and found that there was a movie adaptation of Julia Alvarez’s book In the Time of the Butterflies. I had to watch it, of course. In my review of Julia’s book, I explained that it was based on real women. The Mirabel sisters really did exist. They were known as the butterflies in an underground movement to dispose the dictator Trujillo from his reign in the Dominican Republic. The Mirabel sisters, three of them, were martyred by Trujillo’s people and six months later, Trujillo was assassinated. Because of the Mirabel sisters, November 25th is known as a day against violence to women in many Latin American countries. It’s coming up actually, so mark your calendars.


Minerva Mirabel lives on a farm with her family, but wants to go to school with her sisters. She finally convinces her father of her desire to go to the capital and go to school. He allows his daughters to do so. Minerva wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, but it’s illegal in her country for a woman to attend law school or to practice law.

In her school she is grouped with other girls in her age group. The school puts on a play and this is the first time Minerva encounters Trujillo. It seems one of the classmates go away with him and she never sees him again. Minerva, at first, thinks Trujillo is wonderful, but he is not. Another schoolmate tells her that Trujillo has killed her entire family. The girl also disappears. Minerva grows up and is invited to a fancy party that Trujillo is throwing. He takes a special interest in her. Her older sister Patria gets married and her sister Mate gets married.

Enrique Mirabel is imprisoned. Minerva makes a bet with Trujillo. If she wins, her father is freed and she gets to go to law school, Minerva wins, but her father soon dies after being released from prison. In law school Minerva meets a man and gets married. She soon finds herself a part of the resistance. Meetings are held at her house. Minerva graduates, while pregnant, but is refused by Trujillo the opportunity to practice law.

The missions Minerva goes on become more dangerous and more dangerous. Gun runs are common. Guns stored on family property are common. The Mirabel sisters, now known as the butterflies, work with local churches to get news of the resistance out. Two of them are imprisoned. They stay in a terrible prison for months. Other countries soon start investigating the things Trujillo is doing. The Mirabel sisters are released from prison. They are told they can visit their husbands who are also in prison, but they never make it home. Patria, Mate, and Minerva Mirabel are killed on the way home from seeing their husbands. Their deaths ultimately led to Trujillo’s loss of power in the Dominican Republic.


I never knew Marc Anthony acted. Salma Hayek was in this movie and I like her too. I love her Frida. Patria is played by the same woman who was in Like Water for Chocolate; her name is Lumi Cavazos if you wanted to know. I like her.

Trujillo was cast much older than I had imagined him at the beginning of the story. I thought he would have been thirty-something at the beginning, but honestly, I didn’t research too heavily into his age when the events of this story took place.


Some liberties were taken with the story. In this movie Minerva is our narrator, if we could say we had one. In the book, if anybody is the narrator, it’s Dede. Dede was the sole-surviving Mirabel sister. The book was told from the point of view of all four sisters, but Dede was the one who lived and was thus the one telling the story in the end. We don’t really get any of the story after Minerva is killed in the movie.

While imprisoned in the book, the torture doesn’t happen to Minerva, that I remember, it happens to the younger sister. The movie really makes Minerva out to be the star, but a lot more of the story concerned the other Mirabel sisters than this movie lets on.

In the book it is discovered that Enrique Mirabel has a secret family; there is no mention of this in the movie. There is also no mention of mother Mirabel moving out of her farmhouse. There is no mention of the marital problems that pop up in relation to the Mirabel sisters.

What I liked

Except for the liberties taken with characters doing certain things and not doing certain things, I thought the movie was pretty honest to the air of the book. The atmosphere felt as it should. You could feel that there was unrest. You could feel the despair the people were in.

I really liked some of the actors in this movie. They were great I thought.

What I didn’t like

I didn’t like that the story had liberties taken with it. There was also this artsy type of scene that kept cutting into the story of Minerva locked away in solitary confinement. Yeah, well that’s just nice and creative, but it cut through the story and I thought it was kind of boring. I’m not a director though and I’ve never studied film, so what do I know?

Parental Advice

There isn’t nudity or a lot of cussing in this movie, but we are talking about a very bloody period of history for the Dominican Republic. There isn’t a lot of blood in the movie, but the violence is strongly implied. In the end, the Mirabel sisters were beat to death out in a field. The movie doesn’t show this, it’s implied, but the implication is strong.

This movie isn’t for kids, not because it’s mildly violent, it’s not for kids because they wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand what these women were fighting for and why Trujillo was so bad. This movie is way above the heads of children. Sure, you could let your kids watch this, but it’s going to be a whole load of nothing to them. They’re just not going to get anything and then if they’re inquisitive and observant enough, they’re going to notice that three mamas are getting beaten to death in a field. No kid wants their mama beaten to death in the field and it’s probably something little kids don’t want to imagine.


I thought the movie was pretty good standing next to the book. The Mirabel sisters were able to do a lot of good. It’s sad that Dede Mirabel died earlier this year and she’s no longer around, but the children of her sisters have gone on to hold important positions in the Dominican Republic after she raised them.


butterflies, dede mirabel, dominican republic, emperor trujillo, in the time of the butterflies, In the Time of the Butterflies Movie Review, julia alvarez, las mariposas, mariposa, mate mirabel, minerva mirabel, mirabel, mirabel sisters, patria mirabel, resistance movement, trujillo
Literature related videos and movie previews, Movies based off of books


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