Lilya 4-Ever (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/04/2003

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Moodysson’s third film marks a radical shift in tone but still delivers on the promise of his earlier films – brilliantly acted, superbly directed and deeply moving this is one of the best films of the year.

Lukas Moodysson’s previous film, Together, ended on a joyous note, with Abba on the soundtrack and a communal game of football in the snow. Both that film and his debut feature, Show Me Love, were warm-hearted, beautifully written comedies that put most Hollywood ‘feelgood’ movies to shame.

Radical Shift In Tone

However, for his third feature, Lilya 4-Ever, Moodysson has adopted a radical shift in tone – it’s as if he decided to hang out with Lars von Trier for the afternoon and this is the result.

In stark contrast to the happy, upbeat music of Together, Lilya 4-Ever opens with the industrial metal sound of Rammstein on the soundtrack as the 16 year old Lilya runs towards a bridge and prepares to throw herself off. We then flash back to discover how she got there.

Set “somewhere in the former Soviet Union”, the film stars Oksana Akinsjina as Lilya, a teenage Russian girl. Abandoned by her mother, she is then kicked out of her nice flat by her conniving aunt. Spending most of her time sniffing glue, she becomes friends with a similarly abandoned young boy named Volodya.

After turning to prostitution, she meets a man who appears to offer her a way out, with the promise of a job and a new life in Sweden. But is he all that he seems? And what will happen to Volodya if she leaves?

Terrific Performances

Moodysson already has a reputation as a skilled director of child actors and he does it again here, eliciting terrific performances from both Akinsjina and Artiom Bogutjarskim as Volodya.

The child’s eye perspective of the events of the film also allows for an astonishing note of fantasy to creep in, which is both breath-taking and deeply moving and yet, is also the sort of thing you’d laugh at in any other film. The effect of the contrast is also heightened by the naturalistic camerawork, another Moodysson trait that works well here.

Other film-makers (and the makers of Tatu videos) might have been tempted to exploit the child prostitution angle of the film, but Moodysson shoots the sex scenes in such a way that they force the viewer to identify with Lilya – a montage sequence is particularly effective and will, in all probability, leave you feeling rather dirty.

In short, Lilya 4-Ever is not an easy film to watch, though neither is it relentlessly bleak, thanks to the warmth of the two main characters. Undeniably heart-breaking, it’s the sort of film that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 13:59

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