‘Lola’ (2023) Ending, Explained & Movie Summary: Do Mars And Thom Turn Back Time?

Andrew Legge’s directorial debut Lola treads the line between the pitfalls of invention and the blessings that initially surround the same. One minute, it’s a seemingly ahead-of-its-time musical trying to capture the imperceivable hues of two sisters in the helplessly limited 16mm black and white frames. And in the blink of an eye, the symphony of love transforms into a heated brawl against the war-torn backdrop of a fictional Britain. To plate up something refreshingly original—a film that would’ve been deemed a masterpiece had it been made around the same time as the narrative is set—is an laudable achievement for a debut director who’s evidently in awe of the bleak nuances of time travel.

Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Lola’ Film?

The leap of faith that Legge’s narrative opens with is quite extreme. You could turn your screen off right after the title card welcomes you with the faux-found-footage trope, where you first get to know about the montage of recordings found at a Sussex country house. We could continue down the rabbit hole and find out what’s so special about a collection of broadcasts from 1941, but what’s in it for us? Leaving now would be foolish considering the rest of the film, despite taking similar risks with done-to-death tropes, sweeps you off your feet with the most peculiarly charming, unexpectedly comical, and horrifically tragic turn of events. The moment you see Martha Mars Hanbury’s devastated face, your eyes inadvertently go to the scar on her neck. But Lola’s tight runtime has no wish to let you stew in your confusion. You’re watching a fervidly desperate documentary made by Mars, addressed to her scientific genius of a sister, Thomasina Thom Hanbury.

There are talks of undoing history, and, therefore, you’re already expecting an innovation-gone-horribly-wrong kind of deal. You may still not be fully convinced to stick around. And then you meet Lola, a towering time machine born of Thom’s reckless and impassioned mind, which thrives on creating things the rest of the world hasn’t thought of yet. What hooks you is how dissimilar Lola is from the run-of-the-mill time machines. Named after their deceased mother, Lola ropes the future in through broadcasts and telecasts instead of being a vehicle for tangible time travel. And as you’d guess, Lola’s birth is initially celebrated with mirthful clippings of the future, vibrant with the hope that the world will someday be made a more interesting place by the David Bowies and the Stanley Kubricks. Bear in mind that the timeline of the time machine’s creation coincided with World War II, and Lola existed almost in denial of the escalating tension between Britain and Germany. That is, until a jarring broadcast foretells an impending attack by German troops, leaving Thom no other choice but to don her Angel Of Portobello hat and save countless lives by hacking into the system and circulating a fair warning.


Why Do Thom And Mars Join Hands With The British Military?

Thom and Mars are wonderful people through and through. And part of that credit definitely belongs to their eccentric parents, who, as chronicled throughout the daunting course of Mars’ documentary, were people with a staunch hatred for war and nurtured values that were way ahead of their time. When Sebastian, a military official more driven by the intrigue of the predictive broadcasts than a wish to shut them down, comes snooping, the knowledge of Lola’s existence doesn’t remain exclusive to Thom and Mars. But, luckily, Sebastian pleasantly surprises Thom with his sincere wish to employ Lola as an instrument of protection against the Germans.

It’s anything but easy for Thom to shake off her blanket cynicism about people and relinquish any semblance of control over her life’s work to a strange man. And Sebastian’s boss, Cobcroft’s, immediate disregard for Lola’s credibility understandably rubs Thom the wrong way. Yet she can’t help but acknowledge the amount of good she’d be able to do if she could get the sign-off codes verified by Sebastian and have Cobcroft take the necessary action without wasting a moment. Since then, it’s been a chain reaction of heartwarming success achieved by the joint efforts of a machine and the people who adore it. By stopping several attacks and employing unmistakably effective offensive strategies, the team of misfits condensed the amount of time it would have taken for Germany to lose the war.


What Goes Wrong With The Intercepted Broadcasts?

When Lola was first created, Thom and Mars seemingly sought the same thing in its staggeringly beautiful promise of a better future. Singing along to Space Oddity before Bowie was even born and treating themselves to cinematic masterpieces before they were even made, the sisters felt hopeful in embracing the progressive changes in their personal lives, as they were assured of the kind of ways life would actually change for women in the future. Yet, at their very core, Thom and Mars are inherently very different people with antithetical priorities, hopes, and dreams. Mars has always been a dreamer. Even amidst the sleepless nights and days of even forgetting to eat as they hold the fort behind the curtains and protect their country, Mars has created a refuge of her own where her creative energy and her poetic soul have free reign. She trusts and is drawn to Sebastian enough to let him into the deepest, most secret corner of her heart, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Thom, on the other hand, is radically pragmatic. So much so that she’s unbothered by the unfavorable changes her actions inflict on the future of the world. Her being quick to trivialize Bowie never becoming a musician due to the ways they’ve meddled with the course of time may seem fairly harmless at first, but her utilitarian tendencies are more volatile than they initially seem. Her desperation to be effective makes her stoop so low that she intentionally orchestrates an attack on the German U-boats at the cost of 2000 American lives. In a fateful moment that changes everything for the worse, Thom abandons the very purpose that made her join hands with the Allied forces—a wish to save lives. With America justifiably turning antagonistic toward Britain and Churchill, for the first time, bearing the ugly consequences of the same technology he’s been reaping the benefits of, Britain’s future in the war looks grim, and Thom is to blame.


Do Mars And Thom Turn Back Time?

It’s seldom easy to put a stop to a neurotic spiral that only seems to get worse and worse with time. Thom’s creative ego often clouds her judgment immensely, and the whole world bears the brunt of it. It’s not that Mars isn’t patient with her sister and her unpredictable and often destructive whims. But there’s only so much sense that Mars can talk into Thom when she’s made up her mind about how she wants to conduct her business and maneuver Lola. There comes a point in most great inventors’ lives where the lines between good and bad get increasingly blurry, especially when it concerns their creation and its application. Thom falters quite often. So much so that in a careless moment of desperately trying to prove Lola’s impeccability, she fails to recognize a trap set by the German strategists and starts a chain reaction of events that eventually leads to Germany crushing Britain in the war and the Nazi flag proudly flapping in the wind.

As was bound to be the fate of Thom after her misadventure royally screwed up the entire world, she gets termed a traitor marionetted by the Nazis. And paying the same price with an impending death sentence is Mars, even though her only mistake was sticking by her rigid sister when she refused to leave Lola behind and make a run for it. Ironically, when the people they’d given their all to save turned their backs on the two sisters, it was a random Nazi bombing that created a distraction and allowed them to escape, albeit separately. It hasn’t been an easy road for Mars to go on without her sister, especially with the possibility that Thom might’ve lost her life in the chaos. But a dreamer finds ways to persevere.

Mars has found a flicker of hope and a will to live in the shelter where people against the Nazi regime have sought refuge. It’s amusingly audacious of Lola to create a bloodcurdling alternative future with the Third Reich taking over Britain and release some of the tension with comically catchy fascist pop numbers. It’s at this point that you get the sense that things are not going to end as glumly as you’d previously thought. Hope resurfaces with Mars seeing Thom’s face on TV. What was once Thom’s dooming curse after the accusation of being a Nazi mole has turned out to be her blessing under the Fuhrer’s regime. Unfortunately, Mars’ impulsive attempt at reaching her sister costs Sebastian his life.

Unaware of Mars being alive, Thom’s gone on to become the most celebrated scientist, cherished and revered by all in the land, where all crimes have apparently been put to a stop. It’s when Adolf Hitler himself pays Thom a visit and gets acquainted with the machine that has changed his life for the better that we get to see Mars’ valiantly rebellious side for the first time. Even though her initial plan of killing the Fuhrer fails, in a ridiculously dramatic turn of events that sees Mars turning into a formidable femme fatale, she evades certain death but sadly loses her sister to the bullets shot by the guards. The ending sequence of Lola wears the facade of ambiguity while clandestinely dropping hints that point to the only possible conclusion. What we’ve been watching so far has been Mars’ message to Thom. Even though Thom’s been killed, Mars hopes that the message will be intercepted by Lola and seen by Thom in the past. If Thom could see the tragedy that her actions would lead the world to, she’d never even begin using Lola to help the British troops.

During Lola‘s ending, we come across a newspaper clipping of the only picture found of the sisters. They’re a part of the crowd celebrating the end of World War II and Germany’s defeat. This would explain why no sign of Lola was ever found in the Hanbury country house. Lola must’ve shown Mars’ documentary to Thom, effectively making Thom take action and perhaps destroy the machine in order to allow time to do its own thing. Thom’s been a big believer in the notion of a perfect society. It’s this faulty ideology that has often made her take matters into her own hands and meddle with time as she sees fit. By the time she’d accepted that she was wrong in her perception of her actions and their consequences, it was too late for Thom. It was Mars who turned out to be the smarter of the two, despite being ridiculed all her life for being a dreamer.


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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