Lola and the Sea: Taking a road trip towards understanding

Mya Bollaers is wonderful as a high-spirited young trans woman

Lola is played with spitting fury by the wonderful young transgender performer Mya Bollaers

Film Title: Lola and the Sea

Director: Laurent Micheli

Starring: Mya Bollaers, Benoît Magimel, Els Deceukelier, Sami Outalbali, Jérémy Zagba

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 90 min

Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 05:00


Transgenderism has not always enjoyed the happiest screen representations. Getting past such unfortunate early forays as Raquel Welch’s rape scene in Myra Breckinridge, Buffalo Bill’s skin frocks in The Silence of the Lambs, or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’s retching response to Sean Young’s “secret”, more contemporary, supposedly enlightened depictions often seem to exist as awards bait for such performers as Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), Scarlett Johansson (who pulled out of the movie Rub & Tug following an LGBT backlash), and Eddie Redmayne. (Last month, Redmayne called his decision to play transgender pioneer Lili Elbe in 2015’s The Danish Girl a “mistake.”)

  Arriving hot on the heels of the kindly, supportive dads featured in Lukas Dhont’s Girl and Anna Kerrigan’s Cowboys, Lola and the Sea offers rather more complex characters in a fraught family situation. At 18, the high-spirited Lola (played with spitting fury by the wonderful young transgender performer, Mya Bollaers) lives in a foster home with her best friend Sami, is trying to get her diploma as a veterinary assistant, and is waiting on reassignment surgery. The devastating news of her mother Catherine’s death brings Lola home to her transphobic father, Phillipe (Benoit Magimel, nuanced behind the bluster). Angry words and a smashed window later, Lola has stolen her mother’s urn and stormed back to the foster home. 

  Together, and with great reluctance, the warring father and daughter embark on a stormy road trip toward a beach house by the North Sea, a picturesque spot where the family spent fractious holidays and where they hope to scatter Catherine’s ashes.

  There are no easy solutions here. Even the intervention of Els Deceukelier, playing the kindly queer-friendly owner of a roadside bar, has a limited impact. Magimel’s charging bull patriarch moves some way towards acceptance but remains prone to asking his daughter howlingly inappropriate questions. (Sample query: if she’ll be lesbian after reassignment surgery?) He, however, has his own difficulties: in-laws who never cared for him, ambitions dented by early fatherhood, and violent tendencies. 

  Laurent Micheli’s script wisely finds its focus in Lola’s journey. Both parties are works-in-progress. But, as the farewell letter she wrote to her mother indicates, she is looking at the stars.

On limited release from December 27th.