Directed by Janicza Bravo (Lemon)
Synopsis: Inspired by a viral twitter thread that charted an eventful journey from Detroit to Tampa Bay, Zola is as witty, incisive, and exhilarating as its source material. From the opening voiceover, which introduces the movie’s central relationship and draws directly from the thread itself, Zola (Taylour Paige) has you hooked. She meets Stefani (Riley Keough) at the cheesy restaurant she works at and the two share a connection, immediately texting back and forth about a trip Stefani wants to make to Florida with the purpose of making cash stripping. Quickly, the two hit the road with a gruff, nameless mystery man (Colman Domingo) and Stefani’s earnest, lanky goofball boyfriend Derrek (Succession’s Nicholas Braun). Unsurprisingly, chaos ensues. To tell a very online story set in 2015, director Janicza Bravo and her co-writer Jeremy O. Harris skillfully incorporate the formal elements of technology—the pinging sound of a notification, the spacey glow of a screensaver, and the know-it-all tone of a Reddit thread—but the movie doesn’t have a cluttered look. The visual choices never get too fussy. Instead, Bravo uses striking, carefully composed images to locate comedy in the surreal details and the uncomfortable confrontations. As intense as it gets, you’re happy to be trapped in the car for the ride.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020, and was released in the United States on June 30, 2021 by A24, following a year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Zola received positive reviews from critics.