Stars: Emma Appleton, Stefanie Martini, Rory Fleck Byrne, Aaron Monaghan, Hugh O’Conor | Written by Andrew Legge, Angeli Macfarlane | Directed by Andrew Legge
Directed by Andrew Legge, LOLA is an inventive and original British time travel thriller that makes inspired use of archive footage and features a superb soundtrack, including an original song by The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon. However, it’s slightly let down by the performances and a lack of attention to the general aesthetic.
The film purports to be a found footage movie, set in the early 1940s. Emma Appleton and Stefanie Martini play Tom and Martha, a pair of eccentric orphan sisters who live in a large mansion house. When their scientific tinkering results in a time machine called LOLA, they discover they can receive TV signals from the future, allowing them to accurately predict events in the present.
With the country ravaged by WWII, Tom begins using LOLA to calculate bombing attacks during the Blitz, and begins broadcasting anonymous warning messages over the radio, earning her the nickname, The Angel of Portobello. Her actions draw the attention of the British Army, and officers Sebastian (Rory Fleck Byrne) and Cobcroft (Aaron Monaghan) persuade Tom to help them turn the war in their favour. However, when Tom and Martha realise that some of their beloved musicians in the future (notably David Bowie and Bob Dylan) have been erased from history, they realise that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
LOLA‘s use of archive footage is consistently inventive and largely flawless, to the point where you can’t be sure if you’re watching actual footage or something created especially for the movie (at least until Hitler shows up). Similarly, the script uses both real and imagined events of WWII to pose some intriguing questions about sacrifice and whether the ends justify the means, giving the film a strong present-day resonance in the process.
On top of that, the use of music is equally inspired, whether it’s Martha performing a rocking 1940s version of The Kinks’ Girl, You Really Got Me Going (it’s possible to see the implied effect on The Kinks’ career as clever foreshadowing) or a vision of a dystopian future, where all pop music is fascistic in tone (written by Hannon) and the biggest pop star in the world is ‘Reginald Fucking Watson’ (Shaun Boylan).
Sadly, the performances and the dialogue don’t quite measure up to the brilliance of the rest of the film. Appleton and Martini are meant to be ahead of their time, admittedly, but that doesn’t mean they should feel like characters from the 21st century. This is particularly infuriating in an otherwise great moment, when Martha starts saying “cool” and “groovy”, 20 years ahead of time, a moment that would be so much more effective if Martini was otherwise speaking with a clipped 1940s British tone familiar from movies.
There’s a similar problem in LOLA‘s general aesthetic, in that the producers have made no real attempt at pastiche, outside of the newsreel archive material. In other words, the sequences involving Tom and Martha are supposed to be found footage from the 1940s, but that never feels like the case, even taking Martha’s specially invented camera into account.
Those quibbles aside, LOLA is a consistently entertaining and original time travel movie that poses some interesting questions and crams a pleasingly large number of ideas into its efficient 76-minute running time.
LOLA screeened as part of this years Arrow Video London Frightfest.