Director: Alena Lodkina
Starring: Nathalie Morris, Hannah Lynch, Daniel Frederiksen
Distributor: Cinema Plus
Runtime: 95 mins. Reviewed in Jun 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong coarse language

A young Melbourne film students befriends an artist and begins a real/surreal search for meaning in her life.

A Melbourne-based small budget drama, the second feature from writer-director Lodkina. The first, Strange Colours, was about a young Russian woman searching for connections in the mining town of Lightning Ridge. In Petrol, the central character is a young film student, Eva, played sympathetically by Morris. She lives with her Russian parents who came originally from St Petersburg. [Lodkina originally came with her family from St Petersburg at age 13. So, while this is Eva’s story it is also Lodkina’s imaginative story.]

While one can trace a narrative, step-by-step, throughout the film – Eva’s film study, relationship with her parents, caring for an elderly Russian lady who was to be the subject of her film, classes and discussions with her tutor, an encounter with an artist, Mia (Lynch), and subsequent fascination with Mia, who at times disappears, prompting Eva to search for her – that is not exactly the point.

A quotation from the writer-director herself indicates her intentions: “For me, Petrol is a film about a young woman’s search of self, the strange line between self and others, the vulnerability of youth. At a time of change and discovery, when one readily loses oneself in other people, the delicate line between reality and imagination can become blurred,” Lodkina says.

So, the challenge to the audience is to pick up on the allusions, the surreal suggestions, the touches of the beyond, sequences which may be real or maybe in Eva’s imagination . . .

The narrative and the surrealism build up to a confrontation between Eva and Mia, some truth-telling, Eva accusing Mia of being afraid, Mia accusing Eva of spending her life and energy trying to please everyone. There is a reconciliation, a fantasy sequence in fancy dress and the two walking into the surf, and Eva alone.

Scouring reviews has not revealed the meaning of the title – nor the comments made by the director. Nor this review. Eva is very young – and her life is before her. Alena Lodkina has made two feature films and two short films, her career is before her.

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