Carmen & Lola

 

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Arantxa Echevarría's debut feature is not lacking in appeal despite its shortcomings.

 
Carmen & Lola

 

The two teenage girls who fall in love in the Spanish film Carmen & Lola are both Romani and that fact provides a novel background to the not unfamiliar story of two youngsters of the same sex gradually realising the strength of their feelings for each other. Carmen (Rosy Rodríguez) is seventeen and Lola (Zaira Romero) a few months younger and both of them live in Madrid in the district of Hortaleza. Their story is told by Arantxa Echevarría in what is her first full feature film and, rather surprisingly it has taken some years to reach us (made in 2018 it carried off awards in Spain in 2019 winning Goyas in two categories, Best Screenplay and Best New Director).

 

Clearly it was a brave venture, not least because it uses a cast of non-professionals, but Romero and Rodríguez handle the title roles well and the supporting players convince too. Of the two girls, it is Lola who is on balance the more central figure in that the film introduces us fully to her home life with her parents (Moreno Borja and Rafaela Léon) and her young brother, Miguel (Lucas Heredia). The family own a market stall and it is there that Lola first sees Carmen. The glances they share are significant, but we soon learn that Carmen, a high school drop-out, is expected to marry Rafa (Juan José Jiménez) and indeed, their engagement party quickly follows.

 

Lola, already showing some talent as a graphic artist, hopes eventually to teach and is feeling a definite desire to break away and to find freedom, an aim in which she is encouraged by Paqui (Carolina Yuste) who is herself a teacher. There is no doubt that audiences suitably engaged by the appeal of the two leads (Romero in particular) will be hoping that the two girls will come to recognise the depth of their bond and will be able to rebel sufficiently in their different ways to find their true selves in each other. Although they are part of a Roma community, that aspect is used first and foremost to represent a world of patriarchal control and arranged marriages and therefore a challenging context in which to be other than heterosexual.

 

Echevarría is undoubtedly a committed filmmaker but, although her chosen tale is possessed of its own inherent appeal, her relative inexperience does to my mind show through despite those awards won by Carmen & Lola. Not least there’s the way in which in the film’s earlier scenes the editing is so quick and applied with such frequency that it inhibits flow and for a while makes it difficult to link up and to identify the various characters. As for the second half, it involves some plot contrivances and, while hostility to the lovers in this community is to be expected, the climax plays like melodrama. Furthermore, the conclusion really calls for something as austere as the classic freeze-frame ending of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups but Echevarría is unwilling to go there, so what is offered instead lacks conviction. For these reasons, Carmen & Lola is less successful than one would wish but, even so, there’s much in it that will appeal greatly to the right audience.

 

Original title: Carmen y Lola.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Zaira Romero, Rosy Rodríguez, Moreno Borja, Rafaela León, Carolina Yuste, Juan José Jiménez, Lucas Heredia, Jacqueline Jiménez, Caroline África, Sandra Toral, Javier I. Bustamante, Rosario Campos, Juan José Hernández.

 

Dir Arantxa Echevarría, Pro Pilar Sánchez Díaz, Screenplay Arantxa Echevarría, Ph Pilar Sánchez Díaz, Art Dir Papick Lozano and Soledad Seseña, Ed Renato Sanjuán, Music Nina Aranda, Costumes Teresa Mora.

 

Comunidad de Madrid/Orange S.A./ICAA/Tvtec services audiovisuales-Peccadillo Pictures.
103 mins. Spain. 2018. Rel: 7 June 2021. Available on Peccadillo on Demand. Cert. 18.