Lou film review: The women-headlined action-thriller seems to be designed to keep the relevant questions at bay with its fast pace

Allison Janney in
Allison Janney in 'Lou' (Image via IMDb)

Allison Janney and Jurnee Smollett-starrer Lou premiered on Netflix on Friday, September 23, 2022. Anne Foerster’s action-thriller is fast and smart enough to conceal the shortcomings that are abundant in this film.

Janney and Smollett, who appear as Lou and Hannah respectively, also served as the film’s executive producers. Hannah’s daughter, Vee, is played by Ridley Bateman, while Logan Marshall-Green plays the role of Philip.


The film’s official synopsis reads:

"A mysterious loner living a quiet life with her dog battles the elements and her own dark past when a neighbor’s little girl is kidnapped during the storm."

Foerster’s film is set in the backdrop of the 1953 coup in Iran, when the democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq was overthrown and the monarchy reinstated with ruling powers to propel strategic and economic concessions more in the line of interest of the U.K. and U.S.

The relevance of the international setting becomes clearer as the film progresses.

Read on for a detailed review of the film.

Lou film review: How does the action-thriller surpass the relevant questions in the film?

A brief overview of the film

Formulaic but fierce as hell, #Lou lets Oscar winner @AllisonBJanney change things up, bringing her typical A-game to an ‘80s-set Netflix thriller in the woods. Along with @jurneesmollett & a well-directed cast, Janney thrives in an environment as breathless as it is bloody.

Lou began with the weather of an impending doom – an overcast sky with the sun peeking as if to take a last look at the world, announcement of a storm, and a suspicious woman digging out a box of buried memories only to burn them in the fire.

Lou is an old but tough woman. She wields a gun like she wields her shovel and lives with her dog Jax. The film began with her writing a letter to someone whose identity was later disclosed, withdrawing all the money from the bank, stashing cash in bags, and cleaning the gun before she readied herself to attempt suicide.

The title card followed a gunshot, not aimed at Lou but the deer that she hunted earlier in the day of her pre-planned death.

When she realized that the deer was still alive, she asked Jax, “Do you think I missed?” She is someone who seems to know what she is doing. As portrayed later, she plans everything, even her death, because she is trained that way.


At a distance to her house is a trailer that she has rented out to Hannah and her daughter, Vee. Their relationship does not seem to have gone beyond the boundaries of landlady and tenant, as a similarly constructed suggests.

That same stormy night, Vee was kidnapped by her father, Philip. Hannah realized that it was Philip after she found a photo of him and Vee on the latter’s bed with the cryptic words: “Hi Mom. My Turn.”

Hannah approached Lou to make a phone call and ended up intervening with the latter’s scheduled suicide attempt. Lou had the barrel of her gun pointed to her chin from below when a panicked Hannah entered.

After Hannah told Lou about Vee being kidnapped by her father, the latter decided to track Philip. Thus, the two women set out on a journey to save Vee.

How does the film surpass relevant questions through its smart design?

A still from the movie (Image via IMDb)
A still from the movie (Image via IMDb)

The setting of the film is conducive to the genre of an action-thriller. A stormy night with the power gone, a burnt car, and no signal to contact the police – all make for a great yet generic plotline.

While wading through a soaking wet and muddy forest will prove to be challenging, it is the nitty-gritties that the director chose to focus on that really make the film worth watching.

A little into the film, the protagonist is revealed to be a former CIA agent who was stationed in Tehran, Iran, on a mission. So, the action scenes between Lou and the men do not come as a surprise. However, Foerster made sure that the action did not look outlandish. Even though Janney's character was a trained CIA agent, she did get beaten up badly.

Age reflected on her. Not only through gray hair, but also through facial lines. Janney’s transition into a former spy is impressive. The action looked real as well as creative, especially when she killed a guy with the lid of a can.

Age is also used as a strength, and is not really looked down upon in the film – a big factor for roles written for women in action films.

#SetTheVCR: Acceptable bunk we use to sell movies is "I need to feel seen."Well today on #Netlix we can see a senior citizen go all #JohnWick. We rarely see active seniors in our pop culture so here: eat this.I dunno about #Lou.Maybe skip this & go with #Nobody instead?…

Lou’s past as a spy also explained her expression of disagreement at the bank when President Ronald Reagan tried to wash his hands off the coup in Iran. She might have worked with the government, but did not support it. In doing so, the film hinted at the unsaid burden that spies carry in their hearts to their graves.

So, what does Lou stand for? That is what the film explores, but the journey is tricky and so is the destination.

In a scene where both women took a break in the forest, and Hannah recounted her days of horror with Philip, Lou remarked, “I guess we all have been through things other people will never understand.”

Hannah, on the other hand, is an everyday woman. She’s a mother saving money for her daughter's college fund in a glass jar. She is not trained in combat but is not hesitant to shoot her daughter’s father when the time arrives.

Hannah and Lou are two sides of the same coin, which could be a way to infer the film. Much later in the film, when the older woman says, “Not everybody is meant to be a mother,” Hannah agrees, but adds that it costs nothing to be human.

Allison Janney in a still from the film (Image via IMDb)
Allison Janney in a still from the film (Image via IMDb)

Meanwhile, Philip traversed through the forest with Vee, trying to get somewhere with a plan on his mind. Philip's backstory was not exactly established in the movie until the end, although Hannah mentioned his work with the U.S. military. The lack of foundation makes his character oscillate between a man with an emotional past and a borderline psychopath.

Although the climax is knee-jerking, the lack of a visual background falters the impact. The film relies on words and dispersed, unclear flashbacks that make it look repetitive after a point. A film can only be taken at face value if it has a face to it. Lou lacks the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth that are needed to make a film wholesome.

Even if it was promoted as one where characters’ dark past and secrets will be revealed, the secrets are hardly presented visually. Both Lou and Philip are residues of a history that does not wish to be recalled. Both are, thus, scarred.

But the pace of the film, in amalgamation with Janney’s performance, makes one forget about the gaps that the story comes with. By the time one outgrows the fact that Lou had just started a heating fire with the help of cotton and a battery cell, the film has slapped the viewer with another turn.

Lou does leave the audience with questions such as why did she suddenly decide to die by suicide? Was Hannah unaware of Lou’s past? How could she after the events of the film?

Why did Philip return? What made him return? The film lives in the present, but hardly vouches for a reliable past.

Dark colors aid the progress, in addition to the weather. It began with an overcast sky, into a stormy night which ran parallel to the high plot points, and ended with a bright morning by the beach where everything fell back into place.

The most apt usage, however, came with the incorporation of the song Hold the Line by the American band TOTO, which was a rage during the 1970s.

The lyrics, “Hold the line, love isn’t always on time,” best describe the film.

Lou is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Edited by Somava
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