Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Lola: The Future Front

They are partially inspired by the Mitford Sisters (especially Diana, the one who married Oswald Mosley), but initially their ideologies are not so extreme—just their personalities. When Thomasina Hanbury invents a device to view the future in 1941, the sisters duly try to use it to serve the British war effort. Unfortunately, hubris brings the downfall of the arrogant, even when they can see the future in Andrew Legge’s Lola, which releases in theaters and on VOD this Friday.

“Thom” is the socially awkward genius, who invented the “Lola” device. Martha is her hard-partying sister, who becomes a fan of Dylan, Bowie, and the 1960’s counter-culture through the Lola. She is not a scientist, but she does the leg work for their “Angel of Portobello” radio broadcasts, giving advance warning of the next day’s air raids. Martha also “handles” Lt. Sebastian, the ambitious intelligence officer, who traces their signal. Unfortunately, Thom starts to resent both Sebastian’s unwelcome oversight and her sister’s romantic interest in him.

is not exactly a time-travel film, but it is a very clever, low-fi sf film that twists the time continuum into knots. It is also one of the more inventive “found footage” movies in years. Initially, found footage seems like a strange choice to tell the tale, but it makes sense at the end.

Legge incorporates archival newsreel footage for a
Zelig-like effect, but that is really the least of it. The most intriguing aspects of the screenplay, co-written by Legge and Angeli Macfarlane, are the ways in which the Hanbury Sisters use their device to re-shape the war. At first, they very successfully mitigate the impact of the London Blitz. However, as they get more ambitious, they start causing unintended consequences.

Emma Appleton is almost super-humanly neurotic as Thomasina, while Stefanie Martini has some surprisingly haunting scenes in the third act, as her increasingly desperate and disillusioned sister. They make quite a duo. In fact,
Lola should arguably qualify as a great “sister” story.

It all looks great, in a grainy, distressed kind of way. Aside from the sisters’ attempts to import pop hits back into their own era (previously seen in
Freaks vs. the Reich), it is a refreshingly original take on butterfly effects altering history. Clearly, this is the kind of sf that relies on ideas rather than special effects, which means it is likely to hold up better over time than its bloated tentpole contemporaries. Very highly recommended, Lola releases this Friday (8/4).