Lola And The Sea

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Lola And The Sea
"Above all else, this is a film about parenting and the barriers that can be erected between parent and child." | Photo: AZ Movies

Lola and the Sea, eh? Trans girl at loggerheads with family. Mum dies. Father bars her from turning up at mum’s funeral. But girl still gets to dispose of ashes. Road trip with dad. Inevitable re-building of bridges and bonding over the final distribution.

Yeah. Something like that. It’s niche. But as tropes go, it has its place, this being the third, or maybe fourth film I have seen that follows this arc. It’s dark, at the outset: very dark, as it is pretty clear there is next to no love lost between Lola (Mya Bollaers) and disapproving dad, Philippe (Benoît Magimel). Lola throws a large solid object through the front window of Philippe’s shop: Philippe repays the favour by generally trying to cut Lola out of his life. Espesh for this last homeward bound with Lola’s mum.

Of course, circumstances are going to throw them together. First, they must drive off into the rain together. Then, saddled with each other’s company, the journey unfolds and as it does, naturally, the relationship aussi!

It’s rare enough as movie category for there to be few rules. Except, even across the few films of this class that I have seen, there are consistencies. Like a romcom, in which you just know that the end our protagonists are working toward is love and marriage. Or love and some variant on 'happy ever after' (And yes: even Thelma And Louise, albeit not romantically entwined, find a sort of fulfilment at the end!). In this sort of road movie, the end in sight is reconciliation.

Between Lola and dad: and dad and (deceased) mum, who, it appears, wasn’t always entirely honest with dad. And there are tropes and tropes within tropes. The big emotional strop at the start; the setting off in the middle of a storm; Lola storming off in the middle of the, er, storm, leading to some very pretty shots of drenched Lola, hair plastered to forehead, wandering through the rain. Bonding over mum’s iPlayer playlist…

Slight departure from norm, when a roadside stop leads Philippe and Lola to overnight at an open-all-hours pole-dancing club and brothel. There, “la patronne” (Els Deceukelier), displaying a fine smile and a heart of gold - is that not de rigueur for “madames” in this sort of story? - prods the warring pair a couple more steps down the road to their eventual reconciliation. Though this began, some hours earlier, when Philippe decided not to drive off and abandon Lola to her fate.

It’s a film about death and the loss of a parent; may, too, be more than a little about the trials and tribulations of transness (though maybe, thankfully, less about that than one might have expected a few years back).

Above all else, though, this is a film about parenting and the barriers that can be erected between parent and child. Like a coral reef that starts small and then, coalescing and accruing a tiny bit each year, is all of a sudden so high that you can no longer see over the top to those on the other side. One day you are cut off from friends, family, and you cannot quite work out how you got there.

So in the end, we are back to mum’s childhood home. There is a big, but not unexpected reveal; a dramatic incident; posthumous intervention from mum; and Lola and Philippe are….reconciled? Parted forever? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. But given the genre…you can probably guess.

If i seem to mock, ever so lightly, it is because there is a sense here of troping by numbers. Director and writer Laurent Micheli has assembled all the right bits and put them together in pretty much the right order to orchestrate a minor sob-in and definite emotion-fest. I am not immune! Certainly my eyes pricked ever so slightly with tears at the final scene when Lola looks back and sees….No. I’m not saying!

The film is beautifully shot, with weather and scenery playing a large part in the on-screen action. Because the sea to which they are headed eventually, crossing Jacques Brel’s 'plat pays' - Belgium or perhaps the Netherlands - in the process, is the North Sea. Brrr!

But, the sea! The French title for this film is not Lola And The Sea, but Lola Vers La Mer, which I’d be tempted to translate as 'Seaward-bound', or 'Towards The Sea'. Except it is, too, an obvious wordplay. Because a French speaker - it is in French with English subtitles - would be as likely to hear 'Lola Vers La Mère', which is something else entirely: 'Lola Going Home To Mum', perhaps. Given the massive role the latter plays in the action - off-stage! - that feels entirely intentional.

This is not a great film. It is a good one. It is accessible to parents and children of all ages (espesh the teenage ones): and while transness is used as the jumping off point here for what follows this is not exactly a 'trans film'. Still, I suspect that many trans people will enjoy it.

Reviewed on: 21 Dec 2021
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A young trans woman hopes to reconcile with her estranged father as they share the journey to scatter her mother's ashes.

Director: Laurent Micheli

Writer: Laurent Micheli

Starring: Mya Bollaers, Benoît Magimel, Els Deceukelier

Year: 2019

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Belgium, France

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