The enigmatic, low-key and slow-burn romantic thriller Frank & Lola is impressive on a number of levels. It’s the first feature from young director/writer Matthew Ross, it’s blessed with a superlative cast — including Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, and Michael Nyqvist — and it features the kind of performance from Shannon that earned him notice before the likes of Man of Steel and Boardwalk Empire came calling.
Shannon is Frank, a talented but down-on-his-luck chef working in Las Vegas. The one bright spot for him is his blossoming romance with Lola (Poots), but that’s put in danger when she has a fling with “a guy from California.” She blames it on a tempestuous childhood and a sexual assault in Paris by her mom’s lover at the time, Alan (Nyqvist).
Frank is already insecure about his relationship with the much younger Lola — he’s not pleased when a younger man (Justin Long) flirts with her at a bar — so when work summons him to Paris, he uses it as a chance to confront Alan, but he gets more than he bargained for.
Ross avoids the obvious thriller tropes — in other hands, Frank & Lola could have been a rousing crowd-pleaser in the Taken vein — and goes for something more moody, deliberate and nuanced. He’s helped by the perpetual nighttime cinematography from Eric Koretz and the sultry score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.
This is the kind of debut that whets the appetite for what else this filmmaker has up his sleeve.
Exclusive: AMC Grapevine 30; Premiere Burleson 14; AMC Mesquite 30; video-on-demand
Frank & Lola
☆☆☆☆ (out of five)
Director: Matthew Ross
Cast: Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Justin Long, Michael Nyqvist
Rated: Unrated (sex, strong language, violence)
Running time: 87 min.