Lola: Review – Ruby and Paul are a young couple experiencing a rift in their relationship. A lack of communication brings on Ruby’s growing suspicions about Paul and his constant whereabouts. One day she decides to follow him in an attempt to get some truth and ease her own anxieties.
Director Alexander Vlahos drops us right into their situation from the outset, a predicament which unfolds over the course of few initial scenes, never giving too much away at any one time. This is made all the more intriguing for there being no verbal conversation, the only presence of language being in the form of mobile phone text messages.
The decision to keep the film completely free of dialogue is a bold choice, one which pays off, elevating it from what could have been a much less interesting, predictable story. Instead it makes it compelling, continually making you want to learn more as the narrative progresses.
Another benefit of having no spoken word is that it eradicates the danger of ending up with clunky and overwritten dialogue, a pitfall of many first time or less experienced directors. It is therefore essential to be able to show, rather than just tell, a story. Vlahos manages to achieve this, his confidence ensures that it feels natural and not gimmicky.
Good casting also helps enormously. Ruby (Anna Brewster) holds the film together, being the character whose journey we follow. She has a captivating presence, emoting everything from confusion and frustration, to affection and wilfulness, through a range of facial expressions as well as body language.
Her reaction to the big revelation towards the end, where she finally solves and understands the mystery, is a superb example of a person undergoing a barrage of internal emotions, outwardly expressed with simple honesty though a single close-up. It communicates her empathy, compassion and openheartedness at that moment perfectly.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Lola solely on the basis of its familiar, well-trodden premise. Vlahos constructs a concise and comprehensive story, simple but accomplished. He recognises and understands the practical and, essentially, unspoken elements of visual storytelling, qualities which raise the film well above average; that and a particularly fine performance from Brewster.
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