Another feature tackling parental grief at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is the Lifetime produced Lila & Eve starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez. Whilst not as emotionally potent as the likes of Strangerland, Lila & Eve is nonetheless a hugely entertaining watch that does successfully tap into an important subject matter.
After her son is killed in a drive-by shooting Lila (Davis) attends a support group where she meets fellow grieving mother Eve (Lopez). Unable to get the justice that they crave from the police force, Lila and Eve take matters into their own hands, seeking revenge on the criminals who killed their children.
Director Charles Stone III and screenwriter Pat Gilfillan impressively capture the sense of grief and anger faced by those who lose a loved one to crime. Gilfillan soaks Lila & Eve in a blurred haze of sadness which taps into the mental effects that loss can have on one’s psyche. An outstanding lead turn from Davis ensures that this sadness is always at its utmost authentic, even when the narrative verges on campy or over melodramatic – yet these moments are undeniably its most fun. At a basic level, Stone III’s film feels like Death Wish meets Eye for an Eye envisioned as a made for television movie.
Stone III’s is not afraid to shy away from the grit and violence of the revenge film, and he allows us to revel in the cathartic pleasure of seeing Lila and Eve take out unrepentant scumbags. However, Lila & Eve always wears its conscience on its sleeve – with Lila never feeling completely comfortable with her violent actions, despite being spurred on by the more revenge-hungry Eve. It is these revenge scenes that are the film’s most enjoyable assets – yet Lila & Eve is also a delight when it lets its hair down a little and embraces the camp. A scene where the two foxy leads stake out a nightclub after a spree of deliriously happy selfies has the potential to become a cult moment, whilst a DIY home explosion kit in the conclusion is amusingly outlandish.
Lila & Eve does show some great originality in its final moments – proving that there is slightly more to it than cathartic Death Wish inspired revenge. A narrative plot twist that flips proceedings on their head is a welcome surprise, but may prove polarising for audiences. Fortunately excellent performances ensure that Stone III’s film continually engages. As previously stated, Davis is magnificent, but praise should also go to Lopez as her gutsy partner-in-revenge who packs her performance with a vibrant energy and engaging emotional backbone.
Lila & Eve is an undeniably enjoyable watch that convincingly tackles the struggles of grief and a basic human desire for revenge. A powerhouse turn from Davis ensures the emotional nerve of the feature is always present, whist allowing us to have fun with a few camp and over-the-top elements.