Film / Lilya 4-ever

Lilja 4-ever is a 2002 Swedish-Danish drama film directed by Lukas Moodysson.

Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is a 16-year-old girl living in the slums of the former Soviet Union. As the film opens, she is enjoying life as best she can, but is really looking forward to moving to America with her mother.

But then her mother leaves poor Lilya to fend for herself. And her only other relative is abusive towards her, saying the only thing she can do is prostitute herself. This Lilya does, and she also starts squatting in a flat with a local boy named Volodya.

A momentary bright spot does appear: she gets a boyfriend named Andrei, who offers her a passport to Sweden so she can be with him. But all is not as it seems: he's really a child trafficker, and she's just been sentenced to a lifetime of prostitution.

And it can only go downhill from there...

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Volodya's dad drinks, beats his 11-years-old son and eventually kicks him out of their home.
  • Adults Are Useless: Adults are either showed to be absent and weak or actively trying to bring misery on the protagonists.
  • Bait the Dog: The film. Lilya thinks she's finally leaving Russia for good and moving to Sweden with Andrei, she gets lured by human traffickers instead.
  • Big "NO!": Angel!Volodya shouts as he tries to interrupt Lilya's suicide.
  • Break the Cutie: The Crapsack World she lives completely breaks Lilya, who is never spared to be a mere plaything for the people around her.
  • Break the Haughty: Lilya is pretty much a Bratty Teenage Daughter at the beginning, but still doesn't deserve the hell she goes through by no one's standards.
  • Cassandra Truth: Volodya. Granted, his warnings about Andrei probably were based on jealousy, but in the end, he was right.
  • Crapsack World: Russia does not come off well in this movie at all.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lukas Moodyson is best known abroad for his drama Fucking Åmål which featured a blooming lesbian relationship and the consequent Gayngst, but ultimately the protagonists come to terms with their sexuality and earn their happy ending. This one instead is huge Break the Cutie story, which features human trafficking as the main subject.
  • Despair Event Horizon; For Volodya it's Lilya leaving him behind. For Lilya it's being forced to prostitution again in Sweden.
  • Died Happily Ever After: After Lilya kills herself to escape a life of forced prostitution, her and her young friend Volodya (who committed suicide earlier in the film) appear as angels playing basketball.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lilya's father abandoned her mother as soon as she told her she was pregnant.
  • Driven to Suicide: Lilya and Volodya, whether or not it worked for the former is left ambiguous.
  • Eagleland: Type 1, Lilya is enamored with the idea of moving from in the Soviet Union to America.
  • False Friend: Andrei pretends to court Lilya to get her out of Russia and sold her to prostitution.
    • Also Natasha, who hangs out with Lilya but has no qualms about framing her when her fathers almost finds out she secretly sells herself to gain extra cash.
  • Foreign Language Title: Lilja 4-ever.
  • From Bad to Worse: The movie!
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: Lilya is shown having some fun at the disco with Natasha until the latter starts to picking up clients. Later subverted when Lilya prostitutes herself by picking up random people there.
  • Guardian Angel: Volodya becomes Lilya's guardian angel after his suicide.
  • How We Got Here: The movie starts with Lilya running away from her captors and contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge.
  • Inspired by...: The film was based on the real-life story of 16-year-old trafficking victim Danguole Rasalaite, whose story ended the same way as Lilya's. It was dedicated to the millions of other victims of trafficking across the world.
  • Karma Houdini: Lilya's negelectful mother, Lilya's aunt, Volodya's abusive father, The men who gang raped Lilya, Lilya's pimp, and Andrei pretty much all get away with their horrible actions and never get punished.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The "4" in the movie title.
  • Magical Realism: Despite being way too much realistic, Volodya appears after death as an angel and talks with Lilya.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Lilya tries to say goodbye to Volodya, but he is hurt that she is leaving and runs away before she can.
  • Parental Abandonment: Lilya's father only courted her mother to sleep with her, and then proceeded to move to Moscow and sever all ties he had with her mother once she told him he was pregnant. Lilya's mother abandons her when she moves to America with her new boyfriend, and her Aunt (who was told to watch over Lilya after her mother left), while not necessarily moving away or anything, does essentially leave her to her own devices, telling her to whore herself out if she needs money to keep the electricity in her flat.
  • Parental Substitute: Lilya (temporarily) becomes this for Volodya. Lilya's aunt is supposed to be this for her, but she gives up rather quickly.
  • Rape as Drama: This films subverts any concept of Unproblematic Prostitution one may have and shows how horrible and traumatizing is to have to sell themselves and then being coerced into prostitution several times in a day.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Horribly averted. Lilya is raped several times onscreen, with the camera focusing on her rapists' faces as they're having an orgasm.
  • Scenery Gorn: The abandoned Soviet building where Lilya and Volodya hide to play is quite creepy. It used to be an office where most of the town had worked but since the perestroika it has been abandoned and forgotten like pretty much of the Soviet buildings spread around Eastern Europe.
  • Sensual Slavs: Deconstructed, considering the main character is a poor Russian girl who is forced into prostitution.
  • Sex Slave: How unfortunately Lilya ends up.
  • Shower of Angst: After being pimped out by her captors, Lilya shows a Thousand-Yard Stare while taking a bath.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Lilya and Volodya as angels in Heaven play basketball, laughing, while sad violin music reminds us that they both killed themselves as children.
  • Title Drop: What Lilya and Volodya carve into the bench.
  • Together in Death: The film ends with Lilja and Voldoya playing basketball happily together in the afterlife.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Lilya is first abandoned by her mother, then left by aunt to fend for herself, then runs out of money and starts prostitute herself, then gets harassed and never stops.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Lilya smokes, drinks, huffs glue, and prostitutes herself (though the latter one she does out of necessity). Volodya is also worryingly fine with doing drugs at age 11.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Natasha sees no problem with occasionally selling herself to gain extra cash, unless her father finds out.
    • Subverted with Lilya. She is visibly disgusted by her clients, and is very much vulnerable to being harassed or beaten, but goes through it anyway because desperately needs money.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Lilya is showed discretely vomiting after her first intercourse with a client.
  • Wretched Hive: The New Russia seems nothing like a nice place to live. You'd try to get out too.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Twice. When Lilya thinks she's leaving to America with her mother, mum instead leaves her behind. When she thinks she's going to start a new life in Sweden with Andrei, she gets lured by human traffickers instead.