"LOLA" (2023)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s LOLA, a critically acclaimed sci-fi drama from Dark Sky Films.

In 1940 England, enterprising sisters Thomasina "Thom" Hanbury (Emma Appleton), and Martha "Mars" Hanbury (Stefanie Martini), have built a machine - LOLA - that can intercept radio and TV broadcasts from the future. The device gives them an exciting preview of the world to come, including music by the likes of David Bowie and the Kinks. But with World War II escalating, the sisters decide to use the machine as a weapon of intelligence, with world-altering consequences.

The Good
Joseph: Lola is a master class in motion picture editing — well done, Colin Campbell! — and a thrilling, gripping time-twisting tale that shows, once again, how man’s follies with messing with time (not technically time travel, in this case, but closely related) will lead to dark consequences. The acting is terrific, with Martini standing out as the optimistic sister trying to do her best for humanity. Appleton is also strong as the madder scientist of the siblings. Director Andrew Legge, who co-wrote the sharp screenplay with Angeli Macfarlane, has crafted an excellent science fiction film in which World War II is reshaped — in decidedly alarming ways.

Mike:  It’s hard to call this a time travel movie, although it does contain some of the elements found in them.  Mainly a “revisionist history” story along the lines of Philip K. Dick's “The Man in the High Castle”, LOLA is a tightly packaged cautionary tale with exceptional performances by the leads Emma Appleton and Stefanie Martini as the Hanbury sisters.  Director Andrew Legge takes he and Angeli Macfarlane’s script and brings it to life with clever and quite effective (bordering on flawless, if I’m being honest), editing - from the broadcasts of the future (David Bowie - yay!) to the newsreel footage, all resulting in what could be considered a near-perfect execution of the “found footage” style of storytelling.
A shout-out is also due to Jack Phelan and Rob Clark who designed the eponymous machine which is a beautiful mish-mash of things resembling an Erector set tricked out with dials, knobs, displays, and a cathode ray tube.

The Bad
Joseph: There’s not much to write about negatively here. One issue I had, and this is a decidedly personal bias, is that the elements of rock music from the future were handled well except for a swing rendition of The Kink’s “You Really got Me” which, although very well done, felt a bit self-indulgent and, for me, a bit out of tone with the rest of the film.

Mike: Honestly, there’s not much I would consider “bad” herein. I would have liked to have seen a little more of Thomasina and Martha as they discover things from the future or their realization that they were indeed seeing things that had yet to happen and their methods of proving it to themselves. However, that’s such a personal nit to pick that it shouldn’t even be mentioned.

The Verdict
Joseph: Thought-provoking and highly relevant to the present day, Lola is speculative fiction of the highest order. With top-notch direction, performances, cinematography, special effects, and editing, it is truly a marvel to watch unfold. I’m not always drawn into time-warping science fiction, especially when it becomes convoluted, but Lola avoids overly complicated trappings and delivers a fine science fiction tale with impressive sibling drama and romance elements.

Mike:  Time travel movies can be tricky, and while LOLA isn’t a time travel movie per se, it is still bound by some of the “rules” you’d find in one. The fact that LOLA can only intercept television broadcasts from the future obviously narrows it down and it’s this one aspect that really allows director Andrew Legge to avoid too many of the head-scratching anomalies that arise from traveling backwards and stepping on the metaphorical butterfly that unspools everything. However, there is still the moral quandary that arises from changing events and this makes the viewer question their own beliefs.  Is it okay to sacrifice someone’s tomorrow if it means saving dozens of others?  Is it okay to erase a future if that future then never happens?  It’s certainly far different than erasing someone’s yesterday since they’ve already lived and experienced it - or is it?
I highly recommend this exceptionally well done film to all fans of revisionist history and sci-fi/time travel stories.  

LOLA, from Dark Sky Films, is available theatrically and via VOD

Directed By: Andrew Legge
Written By: Andrew Legge & Angeli Macfarlane
Starring:  Stefanie Martini, Emma Appleton, Rory Fleck Byrne, Aaron Monaghan
Run Time: 1h 19m
Rating:  NR
Release Date: August 4th, 2023