Olla review – mail-order bride ruffles feathers in French suburbia

This half-hour short film by Ariane Labed is a sparkily absurdist declaration of female independence that bucks against male fantasy. Romanna Lobach, blood-orange tresses blazing through the mist as she walks across a field in the opening shot, is the Russian mail-order bride shipped in by Pierre (Grégoire Tachnakian), a French bachelor living in a time-warp suburban house with his infirm mother. Fawning over his bride across the kitchen table, he christens her Lola and sets her to work as nursemaid.

Labed – who also acted in her husband Yorgos Lanthimos’s projects Alps, Attenberg and The Lobster – favours the medium shot, all the better for deadpan dispatch of character. Lola and Pierre shuffle around the living room in fabric shoe covers to walk and polish at the same time; she bonds with his mum by playing with the remote-control footrest on the pensioner’s La-Z-Boy recliner. The film builds up a nice head of quirk, underpinned by Lola’s outsider status. Even the many-headed hydra of estate ne’er-do-wells who greet her as one – “Dirty slut!” – as she trots past in ankle boots seems strangely endearing.

The fantasy turns sour after Lola gives a Nancy Reagan-style makeover to the old lady. Pierre’s displeased reaction pushes his bride to reclaim her real name and begin venting. Labed’s comic inflections degenerate into hysteria and violence – especially in the aftermath of one key dance scene – in a controlled manner that promises well for any full-length work she might have en route. The vermillion shade of Lola’s hair continues to bloom on the colour palette – in bathroom tiles, sunset glints on windows, her supermarket carrier bag – as if in solidarity.