Movies We Like
Have you ever anticipated something, like a promotion at your job, and then done something irresponsible? You know, spend money recklessly or boast about your new status. And then, the promotion doesn’t go through and you've not only exposed an ugly side of yourself, but because of the money and support you wasted, you find that you're in a terrible situation. This is where this film begins.
Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is a teenager in Soviet Russia who has a bit of good news to share amongst her small group of friends. Her mother met a Russian-American on an internet dating website and he has arranged to have her and Lilya accompany him to the States. So Lilya prances around her squalid town rubbing this good news in everyone's face. She behaves as if nothing matters now that she is escaping the bleak future that most of her peers will meet. Just as she has packed her things and made a complete fool of herself, her mother informs her that she and her new boyfriend will be going without her. She makes a shaky promise to send for her after they are settled. Though Lilya is only a teenager, she knows the feeling of being abandoned quite well. After her mother leaves, she must say goodbye to her former comforts and experience the same hardships as everyone else.
She quickly stops attending school and becomes best friends with a boy named Volodya (Artiom Bogucharskij). While he is several years younger than her, he serves as a sort of guardian. Her aunt moves her out of the lavish flat she shared with her mother into a gloomy apartment. Here she has deep and light-hearted conversations with Volodya, whose father recently kicked him out. Soon her aunt stops supporting her altogether and with no electricity or heat in the dead of winter, she finds a way to make fast cash. All of her former friends have turned on her, except Volodya. The two become as close as siblings and Lilya's love and appreciation for his loyalty leads her to eventually start prostituting so that they can eat. She meets a young and handsome man at a club and they bond, despite the circumstances in which they met.
Their relationship grows quickly, and before long he has arranged for her to leave Russia and go to Sweden, promising her a job there. Once again she is overjoyed by the prospect of leaving, but has learned better than to flaunt it. Even though she keeps her joy to herself, the news ruins the relationship she had with Volodya, and as she departs, he takes his own life. Once in Sweden, she discovers that her sweet and caring boyfriend had sent her there with a forged passport and arranged for her to be picked up by a man who runs a human trafficking operation. While going through unimaginable torment at the hands of a total stranger, she is visited by Volodya's ghost and together they find a way to help her escape the vicious cycle once and for all.
The story is roughly based on an actual event in Sweden, where a young girl was held captive in an apartment and eventually escaped. I think it shines a light on a major issue of our time that is still going on, even here in America. The film has powerful religious overtones, but uses them in a refreshing way. Usually these kinds of messages, unless worked into a biblical film, can be too heavy. However, Lilya's fight to hang onto her faith and hope for a better future is well executed on the screen. While the movie is very depressing, I find it to be one of the most moving stories of friendship. Aside from plot, the cinematography is absolutely stunning. I recommend seeing this film just for the concept and plot alone, but I'd also like to mention that if you are familiar with Moodysson's work, you'll notice how drastically different this is from his first two. The reward of discovering the versatile accomplishments of an outstanding director is another reason to see this film, and Akinshina's acting (she was only 14) is sure to take your breath away.