Holy Lola (2004) Poster


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Bertrand Tavernier's 2004 vintage
dbdumonteil4 April 2007
Doctor Pierre Sézac (Jacques Gamblin) and his wife Géraldine (Isabelle Carré) a childless couple leave for Cambodgia to adopt one. When they arrive there, a real obstacle course awaits for them. Countless, various problems surface, wanderings from orphanages to orphanages amount to nothing and the courage and love of the young couple is put to a serious test.

When I was in my first year at university, I remember that one of my courses was entitled reading comprehension and for my exams, the topic of this course was based on a conversation between a man and a woman who talked about this widely talked about society phenomenon that is children adoption in Southern Asia. The two protagonists particularly insisted on the testing process that parents had to go through to get their beloved one. Bertrand Tavernier confirms in images and in this harrowing story, the meandering road the Sézac couple take to satisfy their desire to adopt children. This giant in French cinema who has keep on producing varied great works for more than thirty years is a true auteur whose sincerity and commitment about a prickly topic is never questionable. Such is once again the case here with this film that is based on true facts. The difficulties, the problems which the Sézac couple comes up against may seem numerous and exaggerated. One can't help but think that there are true to life either they are of administrative source or that they involve bribery. Tavernier also pores over the problem of children adoption through the different French couples at the hotel. The adventure the Sézac couple has is their common adventure in which chance and fate can smile or leave them at any time. If one can be destabilized by the didactic even documentary side of the venture, one can't deny its strong heartfelt vibe.

The background is also essential. Tavernier voluntarily chose a gritty tone and found place in his film to shake the viewer's nerves in front of Cambodgia ravaged by misery, war (some sequences showcase some soldiers clearing of mines a part of the country), shameful traffics which constitute a serious break to child adoption.

"Holy Lola" is a momentous work for two reasons: Tavernier added one more worthwhile piece of work to his own Aladdin's cave and also a work destined to the mainstream to make them realize of the hard process of child adoption. All the future parents who contemplate this step should have a look at it. And not only them but all those who are fond of topnotch French cinema.
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Other People's Babies
writers_reign30 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Once again having seen and enjoyed a fine film I turn to these pages and find it inexplicable that no one has seen fit to offer an opinion. Despite a slew of good reviews (The French tend to favor a nought to three star system), three maximums, six 'very good', in four weeks in Paris it's only racked up one hundred thousand admissions and last week was down to six thousand in five salles which means that the ruthless French distributors will yank it any minute now. That's no way to treat Bertrand Tavernier but compared to Claude Lelouch he probably feels he's being feted; Lelouch's latest, The Human Condition: Part One, Parisiens, has been yanked already after just four weeks, I got there just in time but that's another story. It's amazing what Tavernier has been able to do with a very basic story of a French couple - Jacques Gamblin and Isabelle Carre - attempting to adopt a baby girl in Cambodia. Okay, location shooting helps but frankly Cambodia's not THAT interesting or photogenic whichever way you slice it and it's very much the central performances that sell this one. There's solid support from a few other couples in the same boat but Gamblin are Carre are light years ahead of the pack. Both, of course, have been around a while and both have copped awards, Carre, a Best Actress Cesar for Se Souvenirs des belles choses (another outstanding film that was let down by the public) and Gamblin in Tavernier's own recent masterpiece Laissez-Passer, but somehow they've never received the recognition they deserve and it may be that they'll be denied this time around too. For a cynical Westerner like me it's all too easy to believe in the political/governmental corruption that obtains in countries like Cambodia and Tavernier does little to disabuse me, telling it, presumably, like it is. And that's all it is, really, hope seguing to frustration, more hope, more bribes until at last ... but go and see it, it's worth it, believe me.
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Everything for Lola
imursel30 September 2018
Directing: 8 /Acting: 7 /Story: 8 /Production values: 8 /Suspence - Thriller level: 4 /Action: 0 /Mystery - unknown: 3 /Romance level: 6 /Comedy elements: 4
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MUST-SEE for anyone considering foreign adoption ...
SONNYK_USA3 March 2005
"Holy Lola" is not a French version last year's adoption movie "Casa de los babys" by John Sayles, but it does cover some of the similar frustrations that all parents trying to adopt outside the USA have to face.

While 'Casa' dealt with adoption South of the border and how rich American mothers would wait in luxurious accommodations for their future offspring to be awarded to them from the depths of poverty, "Holy Lola" examines the culture of Cambodia and the great need of an entire country whose only real export is the orphaned children created from the wars with the Khmer Rouge.

Director Bertrand Tavernier ("Round Midnight") puts the audience into the scenes with a lot of hand-held camera-work and extremely natural performances by its two lead actors. Cambodia is much hotter than France and naturally when the married couple is alone they spend a lot of time in the nude, especially the wife.

Finding the right child is a humiliating process and any group of children playing suddenly becomes a 'shopping zone' for prospective parents to start wheeling and dealing with the local brokers and the endless bribes that have to be negotiated to get the necessary paperwork to leave the country.

Watchable and informative, but not necessarily entertaining with very little humor (except a smiling baby from time to time).
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Good, Not Great
GRMacE14 November 2005
This is a fine retelling of foreign adoption and I heartily recommend it for people who are considering adoption with, however, a major caveat. If you are a potential adopter, you had better be VERY comfortable in your own skin or, after you see this film, you may decide not to go through with it. For the average film-goer, feel free to give this one a pass.

All of the frustrations and guilt surrounding the process are on display, albeit from a strong French perspective. I was a bit taken back by the quantity of whining of the participants about the "Americans and Canadians" who are so rich that they pervert the process. Maybe true, maybe not, but all of the potential French adopters are portrayed as just average folks who do not have the resources that a North American might. (A lower middle class doctor?) To my eyes, that theme became a disturbing political polemic that took away from the thrust of the movie. For reference, I am usually just to the left of Lenin so this takes some doing.

There are other factual lapses in the movie that begin to get under your skin after a while but the heart really is there. As a foreign adopter myself, there are a lot of moments in this film when I recognized an identical scene in my own life. The emotions flow to the surface throughout.

As a movie going experience, well, this film needs an editor. There are scenes that go on forever; story lines that are dropped; characters who appear and disappear without resolution; more lapses in logic than a bad horror film; etc., etc. The director's determination to include all the film he had in the can creates a movie going experience more akin to the Lifetime network than great cinema. Too bad, really.

Overall, a qualified yes for those in the process now or in the past. The film's emotional center is spot on. For everyone else, look elsewhere.
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An emotional roller-coaster.
Brandy00118 March 2006
Holy Lola (20040

Directed by Bertrand Tavernier

Starring Jacques Gamblin(L'Enfer), Isabelle Carré (He Loves Me. He Loves Me Not)

An emotional roller-coaster of the trials and tribulations of a French couples efforts to adopt an orphan baby in Cambodia.

Monsoon season, a husband and wife arrive in Cambodia having completed reams of paperwork back home in order to be able to adopt a baby, they end up at a hotel full of similar couples some of whom have already been there several weeks waiting for their chance.

For two hours or so we follow them around visiting orphanages, small villages and facing a steady stream of bribery and corruption in their attempt to obtain the one thing they feel will make their lives complete.

Heartache, joy, disappointment, frustration, the emotions soar and dive as an opportunity ends in an empty promise. Babies often stolen from their mothers are offered for a price, a phone call from an orphanage will end in bitterness because another (usually American) couple have used large amounts of cash to jump the queue and have taken the child.

Even when they eventually manage to find a beautiful orphan baby girl already rejected by another couple, the endless paperwork and bribes needed to complete even the simplest of tasks leads to arguments and despair. Physically, emotionally and financially drained, you wonder will they ever be able to leave Cambodia with the child of their dreams?

Hand-held camera-work and totally naturalistic acting gives the film an almost documentary feel, the emotional highs and lows are so perfectly played that you could easily believe this is all for real. How real couples can handle this sort of situation, the faith, love and fortitude needed must be incredible.

This is no travelogue, you get the non tourist Cambodia including a visit to a large open garbage tip where hundreds of people from very young children to the very old eke out an existence scrabbling through other peoples waste. You also see the wards in the orphanages of the babies nobody wants, babies with Aids etc.

A very good film but with a couple of minor flaws, you lose a sense of time, I honestly couldn't say how long the search for the baby took? This along with the follow up frustration of sorting out all the paperwork to be able to take the baby back to France, it could have been weeks or even months, I honestly haven't got a clue. The constant dashing from here to there, from hotel to orphanage to village etc leaves you feeling lost and in a sense frustrated as to why, but that does in a sense draw you into the same emotional state as the couple as each trip they make ends in more and more frustration.

All in all, not your typical film but if it does pique your interest, it will grab you and drag you along on a literally dizzying ride. It is tough going but I felt it was more than worth it to for the amazing performances (especially the main couple) and to get a real sense of life in Cambodia.

Cheers Trev.
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Gripping and very believable
joehadddd23 June 2005
I found the move to be extremely believable – and thus gripping and fascinating to the last frame. The corruption in Cambodia is almost unbelievable, the agony of adopting a child in that country are hard to imagine. Paul Pot left a miserable, poor, largely primitive and corrupt society behind – well documented in this movie. Little is shown of the country, stressing the fact that people who come there to adopt a child have neither the time – nor the inclination – to see any of it – the aim is to finish the incredible amount of bureaucracy – and get out before someone else demands some "service charge" Both the acting as well as the direction is excellent.
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