Star Rating:


Director: Andrew Legge

Actors: Emma Appleton, Stefanie Martini

Release Date: Friday 7th April 2023

Genre(s): Documentary, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Thriller, War

Running time: 80 minutes

Two sisters, Martha (Stefanie Martini) and Thomasina (Emma Appleton), devise and create a machine named LOLA which allows them to receive radio and television transmission signals from the future in '40s England. Quickly realising that their device should be used to help the Allies defeat Nazi Germany, they set about altering the outcome of World War II. While initially successful, their actions soon have unintended consequences, and the future they were once able to see no longer looks familiar...

Though initially inventive, found-footage films are now more associated with poor movies and hackneyed stories. Horror movies, of course, beat them to death with overuse in the space of just a couple of years and the concept was used consistently to cover up poor writing and bad acting, not to mention small budgets. That said, efforts such as 'Cloverfield' helped to show what could be done when placed into the hands of effective directors with a solid script. Later, the likes of 'End of Watch' moved the concept into the action genre and was a reasonably successful attempt at taking it to new places.

'LOLA', though it's set in 1940, takes found-footage and runs with it like a science experiment on YouTube. The two would-be documentarians, played with gusto by Emma Appleton and Stefanie Martini, have a genuine reason for filming everything, and it makes sense. They wish to document their experiment, and their earnestness in this effort shines through. Of course, science experiments involving time travel always have unintended consequences and this is where 'LOLA' gets particularly smart and inventive. The whole movie is, in effect, a warning left behind to not meddle in the past. Throughout the grainy, black-and-white footage, we're shown newsreels from an alternate past, one where krautrock is discovered four decades early and World War II goes very much not as expected.

This might seem like familiar territory for a sci-fi thriller about alternate timelines. Philip K. Dick's 'The Man In The High Castle' immediately springs to mind as an influence, along with everything from Len Deighton's 'SS-GB' to 'Back To The Future'. 'LOLA' throws all these into the hopper, funnelling them through the core concept of a found-footage film, and pumping out something wickedly original and inventive on the other side. It's almost too brash at times for its own good, not unlike the inventor sisters at the heart of its story. Yet director Andrew Legge and the script from him and Angeli Macfarlane manage to keep the audience involved and compelled with its sense of pace and lucid storytelling.

Although found footage as a concept is often deployed by directors as a means of hiding a small budget, you get the sense watching 'LOLA' that it hasn't been approached in such a deliberate way in quite some time, and joyfully so.

Fiendishly smart, 'LOLA' is a weird and wonderful tear through the timelines.