Lilya 4-Ever

A naïve innocent, abandoned by her mother, falls into the vicious circles of prostitution and sexual slavery in an unnamed former Soviet Republic before shifting locales to an equally grim corner of Stockholm. The meaning of life is questioned. But in the end we’re still wondering what the meaning of the movie was. Moodysson barrels his protagonist towards a fate that is all but inevitable, wanting to stay true to the grim trajectory of her life (and the lives of all those in this world whose lives are so unfortunate). But does his reportage serve the call and purpose of storytelling? Here, I think Moodysson falls short, in the interest of his dogmatic adherence to realism. But this realism is superficial in nature–a bludgeoning, helter-skelter realism that accurately details Lilya’s miseries, but without providing for us a grace note, that is, a reason for this story to exist. For in all stories we need, if not redemption in the literal sense, a sense that a sensibility wiser and more profound than the world being portrayed is guiding us, and giving meaning to these proceedings. Still, Moodysson is an astute filmmaker, sensitive in matters of performance, managing a kind of guerilla lyricism with his urgently felt hand-held framings and cuttings. As sexually frank as this subject matter is, Moodysson never regresses into prurience in his portrayal, never exploiting his actress nor the young woman she plays. Above that, though, Lilya 4-Ever gives us a glorious, heart-wrenching debut performance in the lead, as auspicious as any in the history of cinema.

Grade: B

Directed by: Lukas Moodysson
Written by: Lukas Moodysson
Cast by: Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharsky, Lyubov Agapova, Liliya Shinkaryova, Pavel Ponomaryov

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