Forbidden Love – Carmen & Lola (BFI Flare Review)


There is always a story to tell when it comes to forbidden love. Even in this day and age, some love is treated as less than, not accepted and has the power to tear families apart, even communities. Carmen & Lola breathe life into this tale of love with a new setting and intriguing two leads.

Teenagers Carmen and Lola live in a gypsy community in a suburb of Madrid. They work at the market with their families and attend church each week, but are on very different paths. Lola, is just learning about her attraction to women and dreams of having a better life away. Carmen is getting engaged to Rafa, Lola’s cousin and seems content in living the same way as all the other women in her community; getting married, having children and becoming a hairdresser. After a chance meeting and tentative friendship, the two girls are drawn to each other and gradually fall in love, not thinking about the consequences of their relationship and what their families will think of them.

From the start, Lola is already trying to explore her sexuality, whereas Carmen doesn’t give it a second thought until Lola takes an interest in her. They are both attracted to each other, even if Carmen is at first outraged by the thought. Theirs isn’t a no holds barred passion, they don’t flaunt their feelings in public, unless you count graffiti art, but are more conservative in how they conduct themselves. The two girls still seem rather innocent, which is something the families choose to ignore, focusing on the fact they love each other jus being a sin in their eyes.

The gypsy way of life is touched upon through rules, family dynamics and celebrations. One aspect of the girls’ lives is that school is not seen as a necessity for them. Lola values her education and what to study further whereas Carmen hasn’t even an interest in taking a course in hairdressing. The value of education in general doesn’t seem important to the families, just so long as they can read, write and count; skills needed at the market. The film does little to hide the fact that the gypsy community is very much a patriarchal society. Women are given very little choice and barely any freedom. Although this is a story about Carmen and Lola, we only see their experience and how they feel. Very little is seen of the families, particularly the men in the family.

Carmen & Lola isn’t a new story but it is a fresh perspective and a small insight into a tight knit community that is not portrayed as open-minded. The two leads, Zaira Romero (Lola) and Rosy Rodriguez (Carmen) are mesmerising. In both their first feature roles, they ground the film into a blossoming romantic drama that you can’t tear yourself away from.

Dir: Arantxa Echevarría

Prd: Pilar Sánchez Díaz, Arantxa Echevarría

Scr: Arantxa Echevarría

Cast: Zaira ROMERO, Rosy RODRIGUEZ, Moreno BORJA, Rafela LEÓN, Carolina YUSTE

DoP: Pilar Sánchez Díaz

Music: Nina Aranda

Country: Spain

Year: 2018

Running time: 103 minutes

Carmen & Lola is being screened at BFI Flare 21st – 31st March