Carmen & Lola ****
Starring: Zaira Romero, Rosy Rodríguez, Moreno Borja, Rafaela León
Director: Arantxa Echevarría
Carmen (Rodríguez) is a seventeen year-old Roma girl, who works for her father on their market stall. Like all the generations before her, she expects to marry young and raise a family within their community. But when she meets Lola (Romero), a relative of her intended, ideas of her future are thrown into disarray as she develops feelings for this girl, despite being convinced that lesbianism is wrong. As their relationship blossoms, so too does the dread of knowing how cataclysmic this revelation would be if exposed to their families.
This is a sweet romance that places the innocence of their youthful spark counterpoint to generations of tradition. The Roma community are vibrant and full of life, depicted as a beguiling and welcoming society, as long as its members abide by its rules. Carmen’s engagement is an energetic affair, with all the colours and flavours we expect from a gypsy wedding, which is a fascinating delight to watch. And Carmen herself is imbued with a vivacious spirit, bubbling with life and effervescence.
Lola, meanwhile, is much more sombre, because she is the one who understands who she is and comprehends exactly what that means. In later scenes, as the nature of their relationship is revealed to their families, we see the community tighten its ranks and regress to bleak defensiveness. Their Christian faith has been evident throughout, so it’s to that the families turn, attempting to cast out the demons in their daughters. In powerful and humiliating scenes, this guttural reaction sees the previous warmth of their family values become bared teeth and clenched fists against sinful pariahs they refuse to tolerate.
While the narrative does follow a now oft-explored LGBT+ formula, this is a compelling portrait of a traditional community rarely seen on film, revolving around a sweet but tragic love story. Rosy Rodríguez is a firecracker lead, with palpable chemistry with Romero. With all the vim and passion of southern Europe, expect raised voices, Latin flair and a lot of earnest intensity.
UK Release: 7th June 2020 on DVD and Peccadillo On Demand & 5th July on general on demand platforms, released by Peccadillo Pictures