The Movie Waffler BFI London Film Festival 2022 Review - MAYA NILO (LAURA) | The Movie Waffler

BFI London Film Festival 2022 Review - MAYA NILO (LAURA)

BFI London Film Festival 2022 Review - MAYA NILO (LAURA)
Along with one of their daughters, two Swedish sisters make a road trip to see their dying mother in Portugal.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Lovisa Sirén

Starring: Zhala, Bahar Pars, Nadja Rosenberg, Susan Taslimi

Maya Nilo (Laura) poster

Those who voted Remain in the Brexit referendum may want to look away from director Lovisa Sirén's Maya Nilo (Laura), which sees its protagonists casually crossing several European borders. Come to think of it, everyone else should probably look away too as somehow a road movie that takes in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal is remarkably dull.

Maya Nilo (Laura) review

The journey is set in motion when Stockholm resident Maya (popstar Zhala) learns that her Portuguese mother is dying of cancer back in Portugal. Maya's young son Sami lives with her mother, and so Maya decides she should head to Portugal to retrieve the boy before his father takes him. Maya tries to convince her sister Nilo (Bahar Pars) to loan her a car, but Nilo is unsympathetic, having long been estranged from her mother. Maya, who likes to act on whims regardless of the consequences, takes the car anyway, along with Nilo's 13-year-old daughter Laura, who wants to meet up with a boy in Germany she knows from online. Before they can cross the bridge to Denmark, Nilo catches up with the pair and reluctantly agrees to join them on a road trip to Portugal.

Maya Nilo (Laura) review

Sirén employs a sisterly dynamic we've seen many times before. Maya is a free-living, some might say irresponsible flibbertigibbet while Nilo is a practical family-oriented type. We expect them to learn a thing or two from each other, but in this case it's a one-way street with Nilo gradually coming around to her sister's way of thinking, while Maya only gets more irresponsible the more ground they cover, even getting arrested for swearing at a policeman at one point. The addition of the teenage Laura is an odd one, as she spends most of the journey sitting quietly in the backseat and never really contributes anything of note to the narrative.

Maya Nilo (Laura) review

Road movies often take their narrative cues from The Wizard of Oz – it's all about the friends you make along the way – but the central trio here never encounters any interesting supporting characters. Everyone they meet is portrayed as an obstacle, which makes Maya and Nilo come off as misanthropic narcissists. At one point they steal a man's car, a crime staged in a cheap attempt to have us cheer on these "Queens," but one which just makes them even harder to warm to. Crude national stereotypes are bandied about, with Germans referred to as Nazis (ironic, given recent developments in Swedish politics) and French men portrayed as horndogs. There are none of the imparted lessons the protagonists of these movies usually receive – this is a road trip where nobody takes the time to look out the window and appreciate the world they're passing by. As it chugs to its final destination, you may find yourself asking "Are we there yet?"

Maya Nilo (Laura) plays at the BFI London Film Festival from October 15th.

2022 movie reviews