LOLA Movie Review & Summary: An intriguing ‘What If?’ About Time-traveling & World War 2

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LOLA Movie Review & Summary: An intriguing ‘What If?’ About Time-traveling & World War 2 - The Movie Culture

Andrew Legge’s short yet impactful feature film debut, LOLA, is a unique blend of found footage elements and time travel genre that gives a glimpse of a dystopian timeline. It was shot in Ireland and debuted at the Locarno Film Festival on August 5, 2022. The film has garnered positive reviews with black-and-white historical film enthusiasts praising it for its detailing. 

The centerpiece of the film is the device called LOLA invented by two orphaned sisters who named it after their mother.  It operated based on a “system of electrical processes that filtred the faintest electromagnetic waves into a signal”, as revealed at the end, and quantum mechanics was used for intercepting broadcast signals from the future.

The two sisters took pride in saving lives by acting upon the future broadcasts. Soon, the Butterfly Effect took effect, and one mistake made the forthcoming predictable evil into a compounded and unstoppable greater evil.

LOLA Movie Cast

  • Emma Appleton as Thomasina Hanbury, nicknamed Thom.
  • Stefanie Martini as Martha Hanbury, nicknamed Mars.
  • Rory Fleck Byrne as Lieutenant Sebastien Holloway
  • Aaron Monaghan as Sir Major Cobcroft
  • Shaun Boylan as singer Reginald Watson

LOLA Movie (2023) Plot

Set in the 1940s, LOLA begins with a title card announcing the discovery of a cache of film reels. These turn out to be movies made by Thomasina and Martha Hanbury with the help of a 16mm Bolex. The camera captures their efforts in designing a device for a better future, and after months of calculations, they invented LOLA. 

The 79-minute film can be divided into three acts of 25 minutes each. In the first act, the lives of the Hanburys take a happy turn. They bet on horse races and win 23 consecutive times and can enjoy music from the 1970s. The sisters also forewarned the British army about future attacks, saving countless lives and earning the moniker of ‘Angel of Portobello.’

Soon, Lieutenant Sebastian catches Martha red-handed with maps of gasometers and radio transmitters. The army arrives at the Hanbury residence, witnesses the predictions made by LOLA, and gives the girls autonomy to operate the device but for military purposes. Sebastian stays at their home to work alongside the sisters.

The British army avoided many casualties as LOLA was able to foresee air raids and naval attacks. Thoma and Mars celebrate their success. Just when Martha begins a romance with Sebastian, the calm tone of the plot picks up intensity. The second act begins with Martha realising that the changes they made in the present had adverse effects on the future, such as erasing David Bowie, Nina Simone, and Bob Dylan.

Tensions flare between Martha and Thomasina based on how much control they wield over other people’s lives. Thoma purposely sacrifices a civilian ship belonging to the USA to counter an air strike from Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, it leads to a domino effect that puts the future of the whole world in jeopardy. The third and final act paints a horrific image of a Fascist Britain, a socialist USA, and the success of the Third Reich.

LOLA Movie (2023) Review

Many movies have explored the possibilities of humans wielding the godlike power of changing the future. However, what LOLA does better is elaborate on the dystopian timeline in a chronological manner. Most of the ‘butterfly effect’ reasonings are justified, giving answers to outcomes that have been a question mark in history thus far. For example, Operation Sea Lion became a success because major armament supplier USA severed ties with Britain, apart from the fact that the army was distracted elsewhere.

LOLA was shot in Ireland during the Covid-19 lockdown. Despite its low budget and limited space for cinema, it managed to deliver a brilliant story. The plot changes tones from being cheerfully merry to downright ghastly at a good pace. Viewers can also relate with the main characters as they are pushed towards insanity due to LOLA, especially when Thomasina chooses to play God and controls who lives despite Martha’s warnings.

Fate and death are intermingled themes in LOLA. Thomasina and Martha created the device to save lives, keeping in view their late father’s anti-war beliefs, but it only led to more destruction. It isn’t a coincidence that LOLA means ‘sorrow.’ Bearing an appearance similar to a television screen as well as a fortune teller’s crystal globe, it initially depicted a bright future with humans landing on the Moon but later showed a picture of British/German scientists developing atomic weapons for the Fuhrer.

The side character of Reginald Watson also plays a symbolic role. His dreadful takes on music fueled by propaganda, titled ‘Sound of Marching Feet’ and ‘Take Me to the Gallows’, signal impending doom. No matter how much the sisters try to change the outcome, things come full circle when the songs become popular hits amidst British/German ambitions of conquering the world.

The Movie Culture Synopsis: Andrew Legge’s feature film is not for Everyone

LOLA can put off some viewers. Many plot holes mar the alarmist tone that it develops throughout the story. The film becomes a bit uncertain when the alternative reality where the Third Reich takes over Britain and Mosley, a British Fascist leader, takes over while Winston Churchill is arrested. It can be argued that an invasion cannot foster ideologies.

The biggest plot hole is the invasion itself. British army acted on a bogus report about an attack at Southampton intercepted by Thomasina while Nazi Germany took control of the Dover coast and is able to infiltrate London. What were the other spies and informants doing all this time? Why was the British army wholly dependent on the information from LOLA?

Screen intrusions are another problem in the found footage film. The camera is handled clumsily, and even though it adds a sense of realism, it becomes annoying for viewers who want to see expressions or headlines by LOLA. There are also screen shakes that could be nauseating for the audience.

Despite possessing a somewhat doubtful alternate reality and dystopian world– as well as obtrusive handheld camera movements – LOLA impresses with its fresh take on found footage film combined with fantasy, drama, and a World War background.