The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - LOLA AND THE SEA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - LOLA AND THE SEA

lola and the sea review
An estranged father and daughter embark on a road trip to honour the wishes of their late wife/mother.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Laurent Micheli

Starring: Mya Bollaers, Benoît Magimel, Sami Outalbali

lola and the sea poster

Melodrama and social realism bump heads in Lola and the Sea, the sophomore effort of Belgian born filmmaker Laurent Micheli. Micheli’s debut, Even Lovers Get the Blues, was an LGBTQ+ themed paean to polyamory, anchored by its bisexual male characters discovering the pleasures of passive sodomy along with the brilliance of female breasts; its ribald art aspiring towards the introspective eroticism of an Egon Schiele illustration (a character even collects prints of the artist).

lola and the sea review

In Lola and the Sea, Micheli offers less adult-orientated content but a more mature discourse on gender and sexuality. The titular Lola is a male to female trans girl. Living in foster care, she is estranged from her family - her dad, who is aggressively nonplussed by Lola’s biological destiny, has all but disowned her, while her mum (who, we will find out, is more empathetic to Lola’s situation) is in the final stages of a terminal illness.

Following a sun kissed opening of Lola skating at the park (her board, which is from then on either strapped to her back or rolling along tarmac, becomes a symbolic code of Lola’s transience; an all-purpose escape route), we pick up with Lola as she learns that her mother has died. Tragedy stimulates the narrative trigger, wherein, post the funeral and scenes of familial conflict, Lola and her dickhead dad end up fulfilling her mum’s wishes to deposit her ashes on a beach at the North Sea. Will they sort out their differences and learn to accept each other’s point of view? You’ll have to watch Lola and the Sea to find out!

lola and the sea review

Essential road movie structures aside, this is really a character driven narrative and as such is Lola’s film. Played by startlingly watchable actor Mya Bollaers (I use the noun in the same denotative way as I would the word poet, as Bollaers is a trans woman), it is Lola’s simmering angst and burgeoning self-assurance which gives Lola and the Sea its gravity. Following a career mainly spent before the camera, Micheli’s direction alchemises with Bollaer’s performance to create vivid characterisation: I loved Lola’s lack of self-pity, her anger and her impetuosity. Despite the bravado, Lola is, of course, intensely vulnerable. She is a kid - and one who is negotiating seismic physical change with limited support, within a society which already ostracises her. Her immaturity manifests in bubbles of rage such as her smashing the frontage of her old man’s store, and, in an inspired gag, throwing pink paint over his windscreen - the dried remnants of which stay there for the remainder of the film and the entire road journey!

Having the fortune to be born into a body I love and a sexuality I am entirely comfortable with, films like Lola and the Sea serve as a welcome privilege check to me and my smug ilk (which is to say that in my happy-go-lucky bubble, it’s easy to say live and let live with Trans issues, which in its own way is a form of ignorance: a breezily optimistic discount of the troubled reality faced by the trans community. And while we’re on the digression, what is the actual problem certain individuals have with Trans people? That ‘men’ will be hanging out in ‘female’ toilets? Hahahaha - come on; there has to be an easier way for potential wrong ‘uns to do this than gender reassignment. That ‘men’ will be competing in ‘female’ sports? Grow up! It’s running and throwing a ball around: who cares?).

lola and the sea review

That said, I could have done with more narrative focus on the dad: although his hostile bigotry does thaw somewhat in the third act, perhaps a more sympathetic portrayal would have supported Lola and the Sea’s themes (transphobia is a sickness: a fear which requires remedy and compassion). Instead, the rhetoric is filtered occasionally through stock characters, such as the brassy owner of an inn the duo rock up in, and a couple of fédérale pigs who give Lola grief, with the presence of such archetypes giving the film an incongruous whimsy. Nonetheless this is a solid drama, with a superb central performance. With reports that Transphobic hate crimes are on the rise, Lola and the Sea is a film made vital by its social context. I look forward to a future where its ideologies seem quaint and passé, and not, as they are, urgently relevant.

Lola and the Sea is in UK cinemas and on VOD from December 17th and in Irish cinemas from December 27th.

2021 movie reviews