In her first feature film, Carmen & Lola, writer-director Arantxa Echevarría tells the queer awakening story of two teenage girls from Madrid’s Romani (Gypsy) community. The narrative isn’t exactly unique or unheard of – in fact, the opposite is true – it’s another tale about cultural values and archaic thinking’s potential to threaten promising young love. However, where the story falls short, the film’s stunning visuals and authentic performances pick up the slack.
Carmen (Rosy Rodríguez) and Lola (Zaira Romero) come from very strict households with families that view marriage and children as the ultimate measure of success for their daughters. Both girls also work for their respective families at the local market, where Lola’s family sells fruits and Carmen’s sell antiques.
After a chance meeting, the pair takes a liking to each other. On Carmen’s end it’s of the platonic nature, whereas for Lola, who is sure of her sexuality, it’s more romantic. Besides Carmen’s apprehension, there’s another problem keeping the two apart – Carmen’s engaged to marry Lola’s cousin.
The first half of the Carmen & Lola shines a light on the cultural obligations the title characters are expected to fulfill. As they begin to grow closer, however, they abandon those expectations in favour of personal happiness. Lola works tirelessly to convince Carmen that they should be together, which eventually results in her calling off her engagement and wholeheartedly returning Lola’s affections.
What should be a celebratory moment is quickly ruined, because the cancelled engagement is the catalyst for both families finding out about their daughters’ relationship. The revelation produces some powerfully acted and heartbreaking scenes between Zaira Romero and Moreno Borja (who plays Lola’s father, Paco).
Although the road might have been long for Carmen and Lola, love eventually wins in the end.
Sunday, February 17, 3:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox