Lorelei is billed as a film about dreamers and second chances, but it is also a film about choices. Barely treading water in their daily lives, the central characters in Sabrina Doyle’s drama are frequently in danger of drowning under the weight of past decisions. To break free from the tide that continually pulls them in the wrong direction, each will need to be willing to reach for the few lifelines thrown their way.
Released from prison after 15 years, Wayland (Pablo Schreiber) is given a chance for a fresh start. Unfortunately, it does not take long for his former life to come calling. In fact, his old biker gang is literally waiting for him at the prison gates to welcome him back to society. Treated like a hero for enduring a longer sentence and not naming names, Wayland’s first few hours of freedom are filled with alcohol, weed and half-naked women around a bonfire. After the partying is done, a drunken Wayland is dropped off at a halfway house, run by Pastor Gail (Trish Egan), where he must live and volunteer hours as part of his parole. It is here where he has a chance encounter with his old high school love, Dolores (Jena Malone).
Dolores is the single mother of three children—all named after shades of blue. There’s eldest Dodger Blue (Chancellor Perry), who is mixed race, moody middle child Periwinkle Blue (Amelia Borgerding), and non-binary Denim Blue (Parker Pascoe-Sheppard), who is the youngest of the group. All in all, Dolores’ life hasn’t been the same since Wayland went to prison. Forced to give up her dreams of being a competitive swimmer after becoming pregnant at a young age, she now provides for her family through her various part-time jobs including cleaning hotel rooms. Rekindling their romance at a brisk pace, Wayland is soon moving into Dolores’ home and trying his hand at domestic life.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, adjusting to a life of responsibility and children does not come easy to Wayland. Living paycheque to paycheque begins to wear on the new couple—Dolores finds herself relying on a used sweater found on the job and an old restaurant gift card to celebrate Periwinkle’s birthday—and finances soon become their main source of tension. With the lure of making fast money seducing him back to his old way of life, Wayland must make a choice between the comfortable world he knows or the unpredictability that comes with charting a family-oriented path with Dolores.
In presenting family as a viable option for Wayland, Doyle’s film flips the traditional cinematic notions of masculinity on its head. At the start of the film, Wayland is portrayed as a particular type of American male: a rough around the edges, blue-collar individual who, prior going to prison, you can imagine committing a hate crime with his gang just for the fun of it. Doyle is careful to dispel that image through his on-going interactions with Denim and Dodger—two individuals who would, no doubt, have been mocked as “other” in Wayland’s old life. By bonding with Dolores’ children, we not only see his compassionate side, but his idealistic, wishful side as well. It turns out he’s just as much of a dreamer as Dolores herself.
The sense of guilt he feels for derailing both of their lives years earlier is undeniable and manifests as a haunting, recurring dream of an invisible barrier between the two of them. While some of the dream and fantasy sequences in Lorelei are extremely effective, take the sequence where Dolores is staring at her own reflection while underwater in a pool, not all work exactly the way Doyle envisioned.
There are times when the fantastical aspects, as grounded as they try be, are a little too on the nose. Not fully trusting in her audience to get the symbolism, Doyle has a tendency to overstate the obvious. Lorelei also finds itself frequently walking a fine line between compelling romantic drama and cutesy indie fare. Take, for example, the fact that Wayland decides to buy a rundown ice cream truck, of all things, to get around town. You just know that the truck will be used for a greater journey later on. While these moments, and the way the film neatly wraps up the kids’ story arcs, come off mawkish at times, Doyle’s film overcomes its various rough patches thanks to Malone and Schreiber’s strong performances.
Bringing the right level of chemistry and compassion to their roles, the two actors are wonderful in the film. They succeed in making Dolores and Wayland characters that the audience can identify with even in the film’s rockier moments. One understands the crushing void that comes with unfulfilled dreams and the desire to head off in a new direction. As Doyle shows in Lorelei, sometimes it takes second and third chances to get one’s life back on track.