‘Lorelei’ Review: A Rural Melodrama, Lost at Sea

In one of the more fanciful sequences in the melodrama “Lorelei,” the film’s protagonist, Wayland (Pablo Schreiber), dreams of his lover, Dolores (Jena Malone), on the beach. She beckons like a siren, beautiful until he gets close. Then Dolores screams, becoming a monster. The image presents a ham-handed metaphor, and it’s indicative of the lack of imagination that hampers the literal-minded drama.

When the movie begins, Wayland has just been released from a 15-year prison sentence. He returns home to rural Oregan, a world of dirty dive bars and motorcycle gangs. It’s also where Wayland met his first love, Dolores, who is now a single mother of three, scraping by on not enough money and not enough social support.

The pair rekindle their romance, but Dolores is erratic, prone to mood swings, quick to accuse both Wayland and her kids of betrayals. Wayland is thrust into becoming the stabilizing force for an entire family, a responsibility he resents.

As a first time feature filmmaker, the director Sabrina Doyle demonstrates an ability to create an environment for her rural, working class characters that feels specific and lived-in. Couches are never clear from clutter, wood-paneled homes have been stained by too many hard rains. Schreiber is hulking and tender, and Malone astutely plays her character as an overburdened adolescent, lost in the expectations of adulthood.

But Doyle displays less adeptness with creating memorable images or narrative momentum. Her film plods through Wayland’s disillusionment, with conflicts that feel repetitive and dreams that are mired in self-consciousness. The film is invested in accurately depicting the details of its character’s lives, but its collection of studied impressions doesn’t coalesce into a coherent final portrait.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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