<Awards and Nomination>
Official Selection – Toronto Film Festival
Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
European Film Festival – Nomination of Best Actress and Best Film

Genre: Drama
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Cast: Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharsky, Lyubov Agapova, Liliya Shinkaryova
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: M18 (Sexual Content)

Released Date: 8 December 2005


16 year-old Lilya lives in a poor and dreary suburb somewhere in the former Soviet Union.
She dreams of a better life. Her mother has moved to the States with a new man and Lilya is waiting to be sent for.

When no letters or money arrive from her mother, it becomes obvious that Lilya has been abandoned. She’s forced to move into a tiny, run-down flat with no electricity or heating. Heartbroken and without money, Lilya’s situation becomes desperate. Her only friend is the 11 year-old boy Volodya, who sometimes is allowed to sleep on her sofa. They hang around together and fantasise to make life a little easier.

One day, hope arrives when Lilya falls in love with Andrei. He asks her to follow him to Sweden to start a new life. Little Volodya is jealous and suspicious - but Lilya packs her bags. Suddenly she´s sitting on a plane bound for Sweden not knowing what will happen next…

Movie Review:

Watching this film about the dejected youths from the former Soviet bloc, and in particular, the tale of one young girl who prostitutes herself, is hard to grapple with. You feel the sense of isolation, the appeal for help, the desperation; you want to reach out but you somehow can't, and this sense of inability overwhelms you as the cycle continues.

The film begins with really blaring loud music shutting out the cries of a bewildered girl as a shaky camera follows behind, before we are brought back 3 months to where it all began. Lilya is a 16 year old girl who gets abandoned by her single parent mother in order to follow her boyfriend to America. Lilya was part of the emigration plan, but at the last moment, finds out the truth behind the lies.

As with any teenager, without proper parental guidance, she gets involved with undesirable
characters - smoking, drinking, even sniffing glue, and even had her best friend betray her integrity. Her aunt cheats her out of her lush apartment in exchange for a dinghy, smelly flat, and soon, she finds herself in dire straits as she has no money, and no job.

Desperate, she pimps herself at a nightclub she regulars, and makes money by selling her body. It's a shame really, that a beautiful teenage girl had to resort to this to make ends meet. You wonder about underaged sex, and the predators all round waiting to pounce, but then again, wonder that she is fully aware of her actions, and consented to having do this.

While you might come to terms with the first act - willing seller, willing buyer, cynically see it as a market transaction, the second act brings a separate "how about" side, which will, and should, incense every moral fibre in you. Befriended by Andrei, she soon falls in love with him, and is smitten by his plans for them to migrate to Sweden to live a better life. He promised a job and a place to stay. Has she finally met her knight in shining armour, who is whisking her away to his castle on a white horse?

Unfortunately, the one true angel in her life, is a young boy called Volodya. They share similar
backgrounds in having their family members abandoning them, and find themselves also being the outcasts amongst their peers. They click well, because of Volodya's easy going nature, and their sharing of dreams to make it out of the slums one day.

With Andrei, Volodya smells a rat, and warns Lilya time and time again that nothing is as good as it seems. But love does blind oneself sometimes, and Lilya is to suffer the heartbreak of another unfulfilled vow. The audience too, will feel the danger looming, but can do absolutely nothing as Lilya reacts naively.

No doubt that Lilya is no angel herself, but no teen deserves the second act. While nothing too explicit is shown on screen, it is still not easy watching them. The movie doesn't shove the message down your throat with great might, it gets played out in such a straight manner, you can't help but to sit up and realize it, that it is just not right.

Kudos must go to Oksana Akinshina, the actress playing Lilya, for bringing out the various emotions, and subtly giving Lilya a sense of vulnerability beneath her tough exterior. Artyom Bogucharsky, who plays Volodya, deserves mention too, for being that rational young lad and exuding that wise demeanour for an 11 year old.

Featured in various film festivals worldwide, Lilya 4-ever is a grim reminder about the plights of
children exploited in prostitution, that each have a story to their current misery, which should not be used to have them engaged in acts against their wishes. Their dreams and aspirations for leading a better life, should not be used as baits and having them turned into broken promises.

Movie Rating:

(A powerful drama highlighting the plights of sexually exploited children - You will be
emotionally engaged, and enraged)

Review by Stefan Shih

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