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Sundance 2020 Review: "Olla" (2019) ★★★


Online dating websites have been around for a while which helps some to build families while some to pass the night. However, its users are like the Bermuda triangle, once you dive in, it can’t get any darker. This statement should not necessarily be taken negatively, but let’s admit, not everyone is what they appear to be online, not even close.

Olla is a young and beautiful Eastern Woman who responded to an online ad from a dating website. Making a bold move, she moves in with Pierre, who shares the house with his old mother. What’s being promised or what Olla had in her mind becomes just a fantasy, as after the new change she finds herself in, she realizes that it’s not what she expected to have.

When we first meet Olla with her luggage, she proudly walks, as she thinks, into the pleasant unknown. A bunch of young men, first gladly, but seconds later, offensively try to attract her attention. Standing tall and strong, the woman passes them as if none of them existed. However, soon, she will change her mind after understanding that reality is harsher than she imagined. Pierre, a single man, is happy to meet his new friend who he hopes to turn into a lover. Olla, who upgrades her name to Lola, to please Pierre’s concern of fitting into his society, becomes looking after his mother.

She helps her to take a bath and cleans the house but there’s something about her and Pierre, who after sharing an awkward kiss, we realize whatever they planned before, won’t work. For example, when Lola puts make-up on Pierre’s mother’s face, Pierre does the unthinkable – instead of thanking her, he expresses his gratitude by slapping her face to express his displeasure with the appalling change in his mother’s look. That’s when Olla takes her own fate into her own hands and does what Pierre would not even expect.

Presenting her first film as a writer and director, Ariane Labed studies the human condition in a modern world of dating websites where two strangers try to connect in a completely disconnected relationship. The film does not aim to scare people off from social networking but rather explores what happens after. Olla is a very charismatic character who, whether we like her approach or not, won’t go down without a fight. Moreover, she is aware of how to survive under any circumstances, while Pierre seems like an old-fashioned man who would not move farther than his own backyard. The dynamic between the two is richly described by Labed, who does not mind walking through the thin line of stereotypes to provide her own unique vision which you will admire the same way I did.

To conclude, “Olla” is an interesting tale of reality many do not have to face. It provides a plausible lesson that we people tend to try doing something radical and new in the hope that our attempts will award us in the end. But with what we see with “Olla”, that’s never been the case. It’s more than just a story of a man and woman who were never meant to be together. It’s more about an exit that always exists that we should never forget about. If there is a chance to walk away from a toxic relationship, any person should do that by all means. At the end of the day, human freedom and choice is what matters which Lola knows how to exercise and use it whenever required.

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