Lilya 4-ever (2002)

Lilya 4-ever (2002)

A relentlessly bleak odyssey of exploitation, led by tender performances

6.9

Movie

Denmark, Sweden
English, Russian, Swedish
Crime, Drama
2002
LUKAS MOODYSSON
Aleksandr Okunev, Artyom Bogucharsky, Bo Christer Hjelte
109 min

What it's about

Lilja lives in poverty and dreams of a better life. Her mother moves to the United States and abandons her to her aunt, who neglects her. Lilja hangs out with her friends, Natasha and Volodya, who is suicidal. Desperate for money, she starts working as a prostitute, and later meets Andrei. He offers her a good job in Sweden, but when Lilja arrives her life quickly enters a downward spiral.

The take

Not for the faint of heart, this Russian-language Swedish film doesn't actually display anything graphic on screen, but it still makes for a difficult and distressing viewing experience. Many films similar in spirit and subject matter have been released in the decades since Lilya 4-ever's own take on human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, which might make it less effective for new viewers. But its tone is still unique enough to set it apart—all thumping electronic/rock music blocking out the pain, and naturalistic direction that allows the film's young stars to be as authentically awkward and naively hopeful as possible.

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