Pretty 16 year old Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is excited to be going to America with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend – but it’s not to be. Left alone in her bleak Russian home town, with no-one who cares about her except her younger neighbourhood friend Volodya (Artiom Bogucharski), Lilya drifts and beds men aimlessly around the dance clubs until she meets a nice young man (Pavel Ponomarjov) who offers to take her to Sweden, where work and a life of luxury awaits. She’s in for a rude shock.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Soon after the beginning of the film Lilya begs her mum not to leave her, screaming “I won’t make it!” we can’t know how tragically prophetic her feelings are. This devastating film chews up your heart and spits it out. The forces that drive the screenplay spring from the ugliness of parental neglect, and the terrifying, damaging demons that grow from that. And perhaps not just parental neglect but neglect on a larger scale in a cruel world, where prayers are not answered and dugs or death are the only successful escapes.
But it’s not a sermon, nor a parable; it’s real, treating these teenagers as human beings, not kids or pawns in a socio-political posture. Along with the characters come the connections we make, and Moodysson’s filmmaking is intimate, powerful and direct.
We’re right there, in the depleted yet harsh physicality of a defunct society, thanks to his use of the camera like a focal point. Sometimes, instead of cutting through a scene, Moodysson likes to swing the camera between the characters – and he’s got plenty to work with.
These youngsters are achingly credible and while it is Oksana Akinshina who has won the acting awards, young Artiom Bogucharski is every bit as marvellous.
Moodysson’s biggest achievement is avoiding melodrama and cliché in a story that has plenty of opportunities for both. Instead, he finds humanity and a raw, pressing universal truth.
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LILYA 4-EVER (MA)
CAST: Oksana Akinshina, Artiom Bogucharski, Elina Benenson, Liliya Shinkaryova, Pavel Ponomayov, Tomas Neumann, Lyubov Agapova, Nikolai Bentsler
PRODUCER: Lars Jonsson
DIRECTOR: Lukas Moodysson
SCRIPT: Lukas Moodysson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ulf Brantas
EDITOR: Michal Leszczylowski, Oleg Morgunov, Bernhard Winkler
MUSIC: Nathan Larson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Josefin Asberg
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Potential Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 7, 2003
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.