Lilya 4-ever
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
lilya 4-ever Moodysson (Show Me Love, Together) brings us yet another amazingly realistic and engaging drama about society punctuated with both humour and grittiness. This time we're in an unnamed Russian city that 16-year-old Lilya (Akinshina) can't wait to leave. She's looking forward to moving to America with her mother (Agapova), but Mum runs off with her boyfriend and leaves Lilya behind. Abandoned and betrayed, she turns to her friend Natasha (Benenson), who's making spending money by turning tricks at the local nightclub. Lilya is rightly horrified. Then she finds herself taking care of an even younger boy (Bogucharsky) with nowhere to go. And with another mouth to feed she gets very desperate indeed. Finally, she meets a nice guy (Ponomaryov) who invites her to move with him to Sweden. The answer to all her problems. Or is it?

The issue here is teen prostitution, and when Lilya reaches rock bottom, it is the only way to find the independence and inner resilience she so desperately needs. But there's much, much more to the film than this, and Lilya's series of betrayals is very hard to watch, even though she somehow keeps her sense of self. Excellent acting helps of course (Akinshina is amazing), as well as Moodysson's pure and natural way of filmmaking. But essentially this is an issue film, and as it examines Lilya's loss not only of innocence, but of love, power and self-respect, it taps into something honest and haunting. Fortunately, the film never becomes a nightmarish slog--it's grim stuff, and it's laid on very thickly, but Moodysson offsets it with raw humour and some surreal dream sequences that try to lift the spirits, as it were. And perhaps the most shocking imagery of all is the view that Western Europe can be just as desolate and cruel as even the worst corner of Russia. Probably more so.

cert 18 strong themes and situations, language, drugs 29.Oct.02 lff

dir-scr Lukas Moodysson
with Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharsky, Elina Benenson, Lyubov Agapova, Liliya Shinkaryova, Pavel Ponomaryov, Tomas Neumann, Tonu Kark, Anastasiya Bedredinova, Jelena Jakovlena, Tamara Solodnikova, Oleg Rogatchov
release US 18.Apr.03; UK 25.Apr.03
02/Sweden 1h49

Before the betrayal. Best friends Lilya and Natasha hit the town (Akinshina and Benenson)...


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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... "Earthy, brave and incredibly moving, Lilya 4-Ever is a small masterpiece from one of Europe's most exciting and perceptive filmmakers." --Neville White, Orpington, Kent 21.Nov.02

lilya 4-ever "Moodysson first two films were both examples of wonderful virtuoso filmmaking, and Lilya 4-Ever easily lives up to this legacy. Continuing his themes of isolated youth culture and the barreness of provincial life this is an altogether bleaker and harsher view of the world than that shown in the ulimately uplifting Show Me Love and Together. It's harrowing stuff and Moodysson uses his medium like a sledgehammer on the emotions - there's no escape for the viewer and we are forced to see the ultimate misery of Lilya's life without any concessions towards sugaring the pill. Powerful and disturbing and all the more so for knowing that ultimately this is not fiction. Lilya's story is happening every day to womenacross the world." --Sally, London 21.Nov.02

2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall