Sixteen-year-old Lilja and her only friend, the young boy Volodja, live in Estonia, fantasizing about a better life. One day, Lilja falls in love with Andrej, who is going to Sweden, and invites Lilja to come along and start a new life.
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While waiting for her mothers reply to take her to the USA, Lilya idles the time away smoking, drinking and having fun with her, too, outcast friend Volodya. In time, the chance of a new life becomes non-existent; her life is going nowhere. Meeting a young man, she then finds a plane ticket in her hand and a new life in Sweden: a job, an apartment and prospects. All is not what it seems. There shall be work, there shall be housing and there shall be no escape. This is the stark, frank and disturbing vision of the life of a young victim of the underground sex trade and in all its tone of realism of abject poverty, despicable actions and of wanting to show that dreaming of a better life is not a crime but that life can shatter the illusion of a happy ending. Written by
Director Lukas Moodysson has achieved a film that is so moving that it is hard to forget it after leaving the theater. Images come back into one's mind about this story about this girl. The tragedy of her life is something to be shocked and alarmed.
To think there are out there, in the so-called civilized world, people that take advantage of girls like Lilja is mind boggling. Lilja's mother has to be one of the worst monsters ever presented in a film. This woman abandons her 16 year old daughter because she has found a meal ticket with a man that will probably end up leaving her as well.
Lilja is beautifully portrayed by Oksana Akinshina. The actress and her character disappear in front of your eyes. The story is very true as thousands of naive girls are exported from what it was the old Soviet Union to other countries in order to force them into prostitution. This story is constantly in the news, yet more and more young girls are duped into going abroad with the promise of highly paid jobs that exist only for the people who exploit them.
Her only friend is Volodya, also a very sad boy who is thrown out of his own house by an abusive father. Volodya and Lilja form a bond as they cling to one another. The little boy is street wise; he knows the fate that awaits Lilja in Sweden. Their friendship is the only thing they both have.
The sad part of the film is the realization that so called "normal" and perfectly "respectful" people are the same ones that brutalize these children. They use Lilja to satisfy their sexual appetites, then discard her like yesterday's trash. To know that there are people like that in our society is a very sad commentary about our world.
Contrary to what many people have commented about the film, I thought that in spite of the tragedy of Lilja's and Volodya's lives, it had a very positive ending because both are free to run around in a better place together, which is not a luxury most of us have on our time in this planet.
Mr. Moodysson gives us a film that will shock; he dares to go where others wouldn't. A job well done..
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