Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jena Malone, Pablo Schreiber, Amelia Borgerding, Chancellor Perry, Parker Pascoe-Sheppard, Trish Egan
Written by: Sabrina Doyle
Directed by: Sabrina Doyle
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 111
Date: 07/30/2021

Lorelei (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Moody Blues

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This shaggy, small-town drama, painted in shades of gray drizzle, comes across a bit too much like a frothy soap opera, but the vivid atmosphere and honest commitment to the characters keep it afloat.

Oregon biker Wayland (Pablo Schreiber) is paroled from prison after 15 years. His buddies pick him up and give him an all-night welcome-home party before dropping him at a halfway house, run by Pastor Gail (Trish Egan). He sleeps there and does chores while searching for a job. One night, he spots Dolores (Jena Malone), his old high school flame, at a support group for single mothers. They reconnect, and it feels like the old spark is still there.

At first Wayland is shocked by Dolores's three children, by three different fathers, especially the oldest, Dodger (Chancellor Perry), who is dark-skinned. Wayland eventually moves in and gets a part-time job, but the family struggles. After a fight, Dolores jumps in her car and disappears, driving straight to L.A. Can Wayland come to terms with this broken, but loving family?

For large sections, watching Lorelei is like seeing a trainwreck in slow-motion, as characters make unwise decisions, or simply suffer from bad luck or bad timing. Wayland loses his one meager job for selling drugs, and when he receives a packet of money from his biker gang, he's unwisely counting it when he runs into his parole officer. And it's hard not to see Dolores's life as a string of mistakes. It makes it hard to get behind the characters for a time.

But eventually, after Wayland gets the hang of the house and gets to know the kids, Lorelei narrows its focus on the damaged fivesome, and a more truthful dynamic forms, one more based on emotions than on actions.

Writer/director Sabrina Doyle — whose feature debut this is — attempts a few visual and thematic flourishes, such as associating Dolores with the ocean, and naming the three kids after shades of blue, as well as a few nightmare sequences for Wayland. These tend to work, lifting the movie out of its rut of grim realism. The final sequence (where the title finally comes in), is a real thing of beauty, and the movie's most hopeful scene.

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