Lilya 4-ever

Lilya 4-ever


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The story may be familiar to those who surf life, without touching it, but the details talk of another reality, beyond statistics, political comment or crocodile tears.

Lukas Moodysson made Together, everyone's favourite foreign language film of the millennium year. After a deluge of Swedes-are-boring jokes and a history of student angst, fed by Ingmar Bergman movies, Scandinavia needed to lighten up. Together, with its story of middle-aged hippies still trying to get it on in a Stockholm commune, hit the spot. What people did not appreciate enough, perhaps, was the original approach of its writer/director who, like Pasolini, started life as a poet.

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Lilya 4-ever is so, so different. It's close to Moodysson's first film, Show Me Love, in that it concerns the alienation of teenagers in a world manipulated by disillusioned and/or corrupt adults. Moodysson is a 34-year-old married man, with two sons, who empathises with the terror of abandonment and the delicacy of hope in a place where there is no future, at an age when to be powerless is to walk without weapons through a dark forest.

Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is 16, "born on the same day as Britney Spears," only four years later. She lives with her mother and her mother's boyfriend in a depressed town on the forgotten fringes of the former Soviet Union. Despite the ugliness of her surroundings and a mood of bitter regret, she remains positive.

Her mother and boyfriend disappear to America, promising to bring her over when the time comes. It doesn't. Instead, her aunt throws her out and dumps her in a manky bedsit, without mod cons. The other kids hang around the streets, sniffing glue and abusing what remains of public services. Some of the girls take money for sex at the only club in town.

Lilya befriends 12-year-old Volodya (Artiom Bogucharskij), who sleeps in the street. They share a sense of humour and belief in the sanctity of life, although there are sketchy moments when suicide seems the only way forward: "Let's pretend we're dead." And then Andrei (Pavel Ponomarev), an older man, is kind to her and she falls in love with him and he promises her a job in Sweden and she goes and you know the rest.

For a film that is dealing with front line despair, it is remarkably uplifting. The characters of Lilya and Volodya have an independence of spirit that retains a natural sweetness, despite the cruelty of their circumstances. The performances of Akinshina and Bogucharskij have a freshness that shines bright in a world grown dark.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2003
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A Russian teenager is abandoned by her mother and must fend for herself.
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Director: Lukas Moodysson

Writer: Lukas Moodysson

Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Artiom Bogucharskij, Pavel Ponomarev, Elina Beninson, Lilia Shinkareva, Tomas Neumann, Ljubov Agapova

Year: 2002

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Sweden/Denmark


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If you like this, try:

Show Me Love