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In a poor Arab neighborhood, the nineteen years old Chimo lives alone with his mother and is a talented natural writer. His school teacher offers him the chance to study in Paris, inclusive with a letter of recommendation, but his mother can not afford and Chimo stays. His three best friends are completely losers and scoundrels. When the shy Chimo meets the gorgeous and sexy new-arrival in the ghetto Lila, who lives with a deranged aunt, his gross friend Mouloud falls for her. However, Chimo becomes close to Lila, who seduces him with her sexual games, telling him about her perverted sexual experience. The inexperienced Chimo falls in love for her, but he does not know how to declare his love for the girl. When Mouloud sneaks and listens to a private conversation between Lila and Chimo, he concludes that the girl is a whore, with tragic consequences. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I'm not exactly the target audience for realist dramas or romance films. My tastes lean heavily towards fantasy, especially horror, the darker side of that broad genre. I tend to prefer stereotypical "guy" and adolescent films. But Lila Says is a beautiful, extremely well made film in many ways. I only subtracted one point because it is just a tad slow in a few sections; however, I can easily see revising my score to a 10 on subsequent viewings.
The story is set in an Arab ghetto outside of Paris. Chimo (Mohammed Khouas) has a talent for writing, but because it's not exactly what anyone expects of him, and seriously pursuing it would involve removing himself from the only world that he knows, he sweeps it under a rug more or less and spends most of his time with three somewhat brash friends. Suddenly, a beautiful French girl, Lila (Vahina Giocante), moves into the neighborhood with her foster mom. Chimo and his friends are all understandably taken with her, but she only pays attention to Chimo, in secret. Lila Says is the story of their growing but odd relationship, which despite Lila's increasingly outrageous stories and sexual comments and behavior, remains mostly platonic.
I've already mentioned that Giocante is beautiful, as is Khouas, as far as I can judge, but so is the setting and the cinematography. Lila says would be worth a watch for the latter alone. Chimo may live in a ghetto, but director of photography John Daly sure knows how to make gorgeous and attractive. Likewise, the songs and the score in the film are beautiful.
But most importantly, the story is very engaging. Director Ziad Doueiri is able to turn a film that is really mostly talking in a limited number of settings into something often as gripping as an adventure/thriller, with hints of both of those genres. Lila's behavior and stories are often surprising, and her relationship with Chimo is complex and realistic. The ending has something of a twist (two, actually) that makes the film more tragic, but at the same time, Lila is a catalyst that brings full realization to "true selves", whether that ends up being a triumph, as in the case of Chimo and his mother, or a disaster, as in the case of another character.
28 of 35 people found this review helpful.
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