Ashleigh Zinko, Rose McKenna, Daniel Luxton
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… a moving portrait of resilience after pain, the erosion of self and how ongoing struggles from childhood trauma into adulthood can be the saddest of all.
My brain is one big scatter, I can’t think of any way around it, so writes a young Claire Murray in her diary, wistful and cross-legged, sitting against her front door of a still evening in Shireen Narayanan’s dramatised true-crime documentary, Wild Butterfly.
The background details of Claire Murray’s life were either unacknowledged or unknown. Needing a second liver transplant in 2010 saw a trial by Australian media – including the betrayal of a 60 Minutes reporter – and a general public lapping up its focus devoted to her as a ‘junkie mother’ who seemingly squandered the gift of her first liver transplant after a heroin relapse.
The story was news-worthy hype where divisions were felt, and mass public outcry and prejudice ensued.
Should it be taxpayer assisted again? Was she worthy of a second transplant after screwing up the first? What media outlets chose to overlook, was the long-term suffering and more personal and tragic convolutions of Claire’s past to fully understand why it got to the point of needing a second transplant, despite how candid Claire’s father, Michael, had been on such matters to different reporters.
Wild Butterfly recovers important gaps and context, traced back to an adverse childhood event of immense and lasting impact. Narayanan, with almost thirty years’ experience as a clinician in mental health, structures the documentary by reflecting upon its practice. What seems at first a disruption of unsettling and scattered events, both at home and at school, reveals to be a poignant joining of the dots. In the manner of trauma narrative, Claire’s tumultuous life is broken down into parts to be rebuilt as a smooth and lucid timeline in order to make sense of it.
After a misdiagnosis of ADHD in her early teens to the more correct identification of post-traumatic stress with an emerging personality disorder as her drug use spirals, the overarching questions of how and why and where everything led her fall into place.
‘Blaming the past’ as a term can sometimes sound abstract. Dissecting it into a linear sequence of events, while identifying a person or an incident that ultimately caused the evolving destruction of another, is more precise. This is what Wild Butterfly achieves. It’s a moving portrait of resilience after pain, the erosion of self and how ongoing struggles from childhood trauma into adulthood can be the saddest of all.