Offering an intimate and fascinating look into an often poorly represented community, Carmen & Lola is a contained but necessary story. It chronicles the blossoming friendship (and love) between Lola and Carmen. Both are a part of the Spanish Roman community, with the pair meet whilst working at a local market. Further brought together by Carmen's engagement to Lola's cousin they steadily become closer and closer, going against their community's beliefs and traditions.
Arantxa Echevarría directorial debut may at times suffer from a somewhat gentle tone but it builds to a climax that offers a resounding emotive punch. Intimately shot by Pilar Sánchez Díaz, Echevarría's focuses initially on the day-to-day life of Lola and Carmen's community, with time given to conflicts around education, religion and their role within it. Even as the film takes on a darker tone, Carmen & Lola remains a respectable look at Roman life. Where another film may have chosen the easier route of villainizing this community, Arantxa Echevarría does not, making the film a more rewarding, interesting watch.
One of the great assets of Carmen & Lola are the central duo who give full performances, building from a strong chemistry between the two. Early on Zaira Romero is the more likeable of the two, her Lola feeling like the richer of these characters. We follow her as she explores her sexuality, attempting to find outlets for it. And yet the emotional punch of the last third would not be there if it weren't for Rosy Rodriguez, and the film gives her the space to transform from a unlikeable figure to a complex character with surprising depth. Once again, good casting helps elevate an intimate indie drama.
There is a sincerity to Carmen & Lola that makes the film a confidential and rewarding look at the Roman community. Certainly the film has a familiar narrative, in part due to the richness of LGBTQ cinema of late, but it manages to move beyond this, thanks to a talented central duo. The chemistry between Romero and Rodrgiuez leads the film nicely into a final third that deftly handles a darkening of tone. I would lie if I said I wasn't moved by the final moments, and the choice are star-crossed lovers must make to be free to love whomever they want to love. Arantxa Echevarría feels like a talent we haven't heard the last of.
This is a London Film Festival preview and Carmen & Lola will be released at a later date.