Review: Lorelei, a siren with baggage

Jena Malone in Lorelei

Lorelei features outstanding performances from its stars, Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber. This small film, written and directed by Sabrina Doyle, is about two people struggling to get a few crumbs of happiness out of life.

Lorelei, according to legend, was a siren on a rocky outcrop in the Rhine River who lured men to their destruction. Keep that bit of trivia in mind as I explain the movie.

Pablo Schreiber in Lorelei

Wayland (Pablo Schreiber) is released from prison as the film opens. His motorcycle club waits outside. The club members greet him warmly, then take him out to get him drunk. In the morning they drop him off at a church sponsored home for parolees run by Pastor Gail (Trish Egan).

Wayland was in an Oregon prison for 15 years for armed robbery. He took the rap for one of his motorcycle club pals. Pastor Gail puts Wayland to work cleaning the church until he can get a real job.

A group of women who come to a weekly parenting meeting where they also receive a big box of food are in the church. One of the women is Dolores (Jena Malone).

Wayland and Dolores were a couple in high school. They see each other and connect again. Over beers, Dolores explains that she has 3 kids. No fathers in sight. Wayland asks if the oldest one is his, but the answer is no.

Dolores takes Wayland home with her. Her kids are there. Dodger Blue (Chancellor Perry) is a scrappy 15 year old who lifts weights and does push ups in preparation to enlist as soon as he’s 18. He looks like his father was African American. Periwinkle Blue (Amelia Borgerding) is turning 13. She sees her mother as a failure and tells her so frequently. Her youngest son is six-year old Denim Blue (Parker Pascoe-Sheppard). He wants to dress in girls’ clothes and is bullied at school.

Wayland is a calm and kind sort of guy. He definitely doesn’t want to end up in prison again. He still has feelings for Margaret.

Margaret feels cheated by life. Her kids were a prison that kept her from her dreams. She’s still dreaming of water and swimming and a life in LA like she did in high school. She’s almost as immature as her kids.

Wayland moves into Margaret’s house. Her kids, especially Denim, come to rely on and respect him. One night Wayland and Margaret argue. Wayland points out that the kids aren’t his. Margaret answers, “They should have been.”

Margaret goes to LA, leaving her kids at home with Wayland. It takes weeks for Wayland to get permission to leave the state and take the kids in search of her. They find her working in a bar where women dress up like mermaids and swim in a big tank over the bar. Her mermaid name is Lorelei.

Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber were both so good in this. It’s a shame this isn’t a big, hyped film that will find a lot of viewers, because their beautiful performances deserve to be seen. I saw it on Hulu, but it’s available from several streamers.

Sabrina Doyle as writer and director was masterful in her storytelling. Memories and dreams that bound Wayland and Margaret were carefully done. Small moments that revealed character from both main actors were powerful and subtle. Details are everything in this film, like the ancient ice cream truck that Wayland buys for $250 and proudly declares “my new wheels.” Like Periwinkle having her first period under Wayland’s care with her mother off having an adventure.

If you watch this gem, let me know what you think.

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