James Jay Edwards reviews Lorelei, a drama film written and directed by Sabrina Doyle in her feature debut, and starring Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber. (Vertical Entertainment)
In mythology, Lorelei is a German mermaid/siren who waited for her lover on a rock situated on the Rhine River. When he didn’t show up, she cast herself into the river and died.
In the cinematic world, Lorelei is the feature film debut from British filmmaker Sabrina Doyle.
Lorelei is about a convict named Wayland (Pablo Schreiber from 13 Hours and First Man) who is recently paroled from a fifteen-year prison sentence for armed robbery. He moves into a church halfway house until he can find a permanent place to live and, while there, he reconnects with his first love, Dolores (Jena Malone from Antebellum and The Neon Demon), a single mother of three. The couple picks up right where they left off, with both Wayland and Dolores looking for a new beginning.
(Lorelei, theatrical release poster, courtesy Vertical Entertainment)
That new beginning comes in the form of starting over with a comfortable relationship. Wayland and Dolores obviously still carry torches for each other but, after fifteen years, there’s a lot of newness between them. Each of Dolores’ kids is from a different father, a fact that initially makes Wayland uncomfortable (especially considering that the oldest is half-African American and the youngest is a boy who likes to dress as a girl). But, after a while, Wayland finds himself embracing the father figure role into which he has been unexpectedly thrust. Which is handy, because with Wayland’s re-entry into her life, Dolores begins to nostalgically explore things that she may have missed out on by becoming a mother so young.
Although Wayland is the character who is seeking the more obvious redemption, Lorelei is as much about Dolores’ dreams as it is about Wayland’s and, because of this, Jena Malone runs away with the movie. Sabrina Doyle’s screenplay provides Malone with dozens of screen-stealing moments, whether they come by way of Dolores singing living room karaoke with the kids or breaking down after a rough day at work as a hotel maid. Dolores’ arc takes her on a journey from responsibility to irresponsibility, with Wayland there to pick up the pieces.
(Lorelei, courtesy Vertical Entertainment)
Lucky for Dolores, Wayland’s arc takes him in the opposite direction. The burly biker who gets released from prison morphs into a sympathetic role model for the kids, stepping up when Dolores falters. He’s not perfect—in fact, he gives in to the temptations of his old ways a few times—but he’s what the kids need when they need it. It just takes both him and the kids a while to figure that out.
There’s a reason that Lorelei is called Lorelei, and it’s not because Dolores throws herself in a river while waiting for Wayland. It’s a tale of lost and found love, of second chances, of mistakes and atonement. Dolores wasn’t exactly waiting for Wayland the whole time he was locked up, but she wasn’t not waiting for him, either. She was waiting for something; she just didn’t know what yet. And that beats the hell out of jumping in a river.
Lorelei is in select theaters and on VOD starting Friday, July 30th, 2021.
Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.