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Lola: Film Review

With Lola, Andrew Ledge creates an eerie portrayal of an alternate version of history we thankfully never got to see.

What would you do if you had the chance to change the future? Admittedly, it would be humanly impossible not to interfere and prevent future catastrophes from happening, but is this always a good idea? These questions are the driving forces behind the story of Lola, a film that interrogates the responsibility and consequences of changing history. A science-fiction found footage movie that has a strong focus on history, Andrew Ledge’s film presents its story with striking aesthetics and an impressive and very fitting musical score by Neil Hannon, thus creating a unique product in an array of movies that reflect on this sort of questions.

The film begins in 1938 when sisters Thomasina Hanbury (Emma Appleton) and Martha Hanbury (Stefanie Martini) invent an innovative broadcasting machine that allows them to look into the future. This groundbreaking technological experiment, which they named Lola after their mother, can broadcast video and audio from any year in the future that the sisters want, allowing them to see multiple decades in the future. But Thom and Mars also soon learn about the upcoming world conflict, witnessing the reality of World War II and its deaths through Lola. This kickstarts a chain reaction that leads them to actively have an impact on the war effort, along with Lieutenant Sebastien Holloway (Rory Fleck Byrne), and ultimately – and inevitably – change the course of history.

Visually, Lola makes some bold choices. The choice of using black and white footage on an often time shaky camera gives us the feeling of actually watching a home movie. This gives the movie an authentic feeling as it was actually one of the actresses playing the sisters that operated the 16mm cameras in the shots her character was meant to be filming. Despite telling a fictional story, the film aesthetically reminds us of a 1940s documentary with its handheld shots and voiceover that, while perhaps being a little too overbearing at times, accompanies us from the very beginning to the film until its end.

loud and clear reviews Lola (Signature Entertainment) film movie
Lola (Signature Entertainment)

Most strikingly, some of the sequences that depict the Nazi’s wins during the war visually reminded me of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, the most well-known and incredibly eerie German Nazi propaganda film, in a very haunting way. As mentioned, this also contributes to creating a documentary look, making the film feel even more real in its depiction of a terrifying alternative history. This is all encapsulated by the clever framing device, explained by the initial intertitles. The opening scene in Lola introduces us to a video recording found in a British home, which is the film we are about to see, thus utilizing the cinematic technique of found footage.

While the aesthetic choices may very well be the most impressive part of the film, the narrative is also memorable, fully delving into the science fiction genre and time travel elements. As such, Lola explores the question of what doing the right thing looks like when every single choice the characters make can have an unprecedented impact on the future and on the fate of the war itself. The film is at its best when it touches on these historical questions, but it sometimes spends a little too much time on the personal lives of the two sisters. While this is interesting as it allows us to get to know these characters more, it is not as fascinating as the question of looking into the future and possibly changing the course of history.

Lola works thanks to its unique visuals and intriguing premise. As the film goes on, it seems to ask us – and its protagonists – if it is really possible to change the future for the best. What is even most striking from this movie is the haunting and disturbing feeling it evokes, making its audience reflect on a darker side of history that could have happened if the global conflict went differently for whatever reason. The movie is at its strongest in this historical reflection as it left me with a chilling feeling as the images of a different possible history remained engrained in my mind long after I finished watching the movie.

Get it on Apple TV

Lola is out now on digital platforms, DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK & Ireland and various countries. The film will be released in US theaters and VOD on August 4, 2023. Watch Lola!

Lola: Trailer (Signature Entertainment)
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