New to video-on-demand platforms this week is the French LGBTQ+ drama, Lola and the Sea. The movie – from writer/director Laurent Micheli – stars Mya Bollaers and Benoît Magimel, and tells the story of a young trans woman called Lola, and the difficult relationship she has with her estranged father.
In the movie, Lola lives in the city with her best friend. She is in the process of gender reassignment, something which has been supported in secret by her mother, Catherine, and life is moving in a better direction than it once was.
But when Catherine passes away, Lola is forced to return home to attend the funeral. Here she encounters her father, Phillipe, who is less than happy to see her, or to have a trans child turn up at the wake.
However, Phillipe and Lola’s reunion goes beyond a brief interaction post-funeral, when they soon find themselves thrust together to fulfil Catherine’s last wish: To have her ashes scattered in the sea. As both Lola and Phillipe are committed to fulfilling this request, they spend the next couple of days on a makeshift road trip.
Brought together in grief, the pair engage in various conversations which allow them to talk openly for the first time in years. But when all is said and done, and once they reach their final destination, will Phillipe ever be able to accept his daughter for who she really is?
When I approached Lola and the Sea I had little-to-no knowledge about the movie. The trailer gave me a rough idea about what to expect, presenting a journey of sorts, whereby two conflicted characters come together through a shared goal.
Essentially that’s what Lola and the Sea is, and for the most part, it does exactly what it says on the tin. However, what this film does, it does well, resulting in a captivating, emotive piece of film, that leaves a lasting impression.
Should you watch it? Of course – this is a superb bit of storytelling.
The main aim of this movie is to open up a dialogue. It wants to discuss the central topic of transitioning, and the impact that being trapped in the wrong body can have.
But this film isn’t just about focusing on Lola and her feelings. While Lola makes up a significant part of the story, and is clearly very important, there is also room for her father to express his viewpoint, for better or worse.
During the course of the movie, the pair take part in some thought-provoking conversations, share some home truths, and occasionally find a morsal of common ground. There are brief flickers of hope along the way, but there’s always the understanding that this movie is about the journey and the interactions, and not so much about the resolution or the destination.
Lola and the Sea is a drama which is not about neat little wrap ups and drastic changes in viewpoints. It is instead a movie about taking small steps, having simple exchanges, and accepting that perhaps bigger discussions or changes of heart will come further down the road. Or maybe not.
This film is also about two people in pain. Both Lola and her father are dealing with the death of someone they loved, and regardless of their feelings towards each other, this is something which they are both going through.
Lola and the Sea is about life and it is about loss. It deals with subject matter that is difficult, at times uncomfortable, but always very compelling.
The film also feels very informative, and I urge anyone who wants a better understanding of a trans persons’ experience to take a look at the film. I believe it has a strong voice, which touches upon a journey that some people will know very little about, and watching this film may open up their mind to new places.
Towards the end of the movie, there is a very important exchange between Lola and Phillipe, which discusses Lola’s forthcoming surgery. The conversation shows Phillipe struggling to get his head around the idea of his child going under the knife, leading him to ask the question: “Aren’t you afraid of the pain?”
Lola’s answer is simple and very telling, responding with: “The pain is nothing compared to what I’ve suffered all my life.” This line speaks volumes about her experience, and I’ve no doubt this will resonate with others on a similar journey too.
And that’s what I like most about Lola and the Sea – I feel that it speaks for many, and goes to some important places, all while simply talking and explaining, rather than being forceful. There are no heroes and villains here, just ordinary folk trying to navigate their way through bumpy situations.
In order to tell this story, writer/director Laurent Micheli largely puts the movie in the hands of its two leads Bollaers and Magimel, and between them they demonstrate how they are both perfectly cast. Mya Bollaers in particular is great, bringing a real strength to the role of Lola, and becomes the driving force behind the film.
But it’s not all down to these two, Micheli knows how to tell the story and the narrative unfolds exactly as it should – with emotion, rawness, and verisimilitude. Chuck in good camera work, some strong dialogue, and some well-placed tunes from the likes of 4 Non Blondes and Culture Club, and the end result is a great film.
Lola and the Sea is an LGBTQ+ movie which I hope is watched by audiences who exist outside of the queer/trans community. I feel that it tells a strong story, and one which kick-starts a conversation.
Whether or not it will be picked up by a wider audience is anyone’s guess, but if you do get the opportunity to watch it, then be sure to take a look. It is available from Friday.