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Film / Lilya 4-ever

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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 trying to make the most out of her poverty-stricken life, but is really looking forward to moving to America with her mother.

Eventually, her mother leaves for America but is only planning on going alone, leaving Lilya to fend for herself, ultimately goaded by her abusive aunt to turn to a life of prostitution only slightly remedied by squatting in a flat with a local boy named Volodya who serves as her only friend.

However, she gets a boyfriend named Andrei, who offers her a passport and a new life in Sweden, and it only goes downhill from there.

Did we also mention this was Very Loosely Based on a True Story?


This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Volodya's alcoholic dad beats him 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.
    • Lilya's mom. As if abandoning her wasn't enough, she later revokes her parenthood of her.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending is montaged in a way that would give rise to two interpretations. Either Lilya going to Sweden was all just a nightmare she had as we see her reliving key moments from her time in Eastern Europe while making different choices this time around. Or the suicide was real and we see her happily playing basketball with Volodya in the afterlife.
  • Bad Samaritan: Andrei turns out to be this. (see Bait the Dog and Bitch in Sheep's Clothing)
  • Bait the Dog: Andrei does this to Lilya by making her think he genuinely loves her and wants to help her by getting her out of Eastern Europe for good and moving to Sweden with him. However... it turns out he was using her so he could sell her as a sex-slave to human traffickers.
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  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted heavily at the end, where we see Lilya bloodied and battered on several areas of her face following assault from her pimps.
  • Big "NO!": Angel!Volodya shouts several of these as he tries to interrupt Lilya's suicide.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Andrei, who presents himself as a kind, altruistic man who wants to help Lilya get out of Eastern Europe, but is, in fact, a despicable, manipulative scumbag who tricks girls and sells them into sex slavery.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Sure, Lilya starts out in the film as rather rude and engages in underage drug use, but she's a saint when compared to most of the people she interacts with. See Hate Sink below.
  • Break the Cutie: Between the parental abandonment and ultimate disenfranchisement and her being tricked into a confined life of sex slavery, Lilya's never much more than 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 anyone's standards.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Lilja burning the picture of her mother.
  • Cassandra Truth: Volodya. Granted, his warnings about Andrei probably were based on jealousy, but in the end, he was right.
  • Crapsack World: Eastern Europe and Sweden do not come off well in this movie at all. Lilya even shares this sentiment when Angel!Volodya gives her the world as a Christmas gift, and she rejects it.
  • 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 a 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 into 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 him she was pregnant.
  • Driven to Suicide: Volodya, via pill overdose, and Lilya, via jumping from a bridge.
  • Eagleland: Type 1, Lilya is enamored with the idea of moving from the Soviet Union to America.
  • Evil All Along: Andrei.
  • False Friend: Andrei pretends to court Lilya to get her out of Eastern Europe and sold her to prostitution.
    • Also Natasha, who hangs out with Lilya but has no qualms about framing her when her father almost finds out she secretly sells herself to gain extra cash.
  • Foreign Language Title: Lilya 4-ever.
  • Foreshadowing: Even before Andrei is revealed to be manipulating Lilya, there are some very subtle hints predicting this.
    • Volodya is very suspicious of him and warns Lilya that he's using her. While at first it just seems like Volodya is envious and resentful about the fact he'll be all alone without Lilya, he turns out to be all too correct.
    • When Andrei tells Lilya he can help her find a new job in Sweden, he mentions growing vegetables as an example, the only problem is that during winter (where the film is set), vegetables don't grow, something that Lilya even lampshades at the end.
    • It also seems rather odd that Andrei would genuinely want to help Lilya, considering he only just met her.
  • From Bad to Worse: Lilya is first abandoned by her mom, then she is kicked out by her aunt and forced into prostitution, then she is betrayed by her male "friends" who later rape her, and finally, she is tricked into sex slavery by the very man who pretended to love her.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: Lilya is shown having some fun at the disco with Natasha until the latter starts to pick up clients. Later subverted when Lilya prostitutes herself by picking up random people there.
  • Guardian Angel: Volodya becomes one for Lilya after his suicide.
  • Hate Sink: Lilya and Volodya are pretty much the only people in the film who aren't reprehensible scumbags.
    • Lilya's mom, who not only abandons her but outright disowns her later in the film.
    • Lilya's aunt, who doesn't give a rat's ass about Lilya and then kicks her out forcing her into prostitution.
    • Volodya's dad, who abuses and shouts at him.
    • Lilya's former male friends, who betray her after they find out she's been prostituting herself and later rape her.
    • Andrea, who pretends to care about Lilya but is actually using her to sell her into sex slavery.
    • Lilya's pimp, who beats her, rapes her, and uses her as a sex slave for other men.
    • Even the minor characters are cruel and unlikeable. The neighbor never gets a nice line in the movie and constantly mocks Lilya. In the only scene she appears in, the teacher sarcastically says "you have a good future ahead of you" after Lilya does poorly on a test.
  • How We Got Here: The movie starts with Lilya running away from her captors and contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The portrayal of humanity in this movie is very negative, to say the least.
  • Human Traffickers: Andrei turns out to be one of these.
  • Inspired by…: See Very Loosely Based on a True Story below.
  • Karma Houdini: Lilya's neglectful mother, Lilya's aunt, Volodya's abusive father, the boys 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 very 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.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The film starts with a flash-forward image of a beaten Lilya running through the city, heading towards a motorway bridge, while Rammstein's "Mein Herz Brennt" plays in the background. We see the image again near the end when it becomes the chronological present, where it's revealed that she's escaping her life of prostitution and moments away from ending her life in general.
  • 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 film 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.
  • Ruritania: Lilya and her family live in one that's as dreary and depressing as they come. Everyone there speaks Russian, though the film was actually shot in Estonia, and the real girl Lilya was based on was from Lithuania.
  • 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 Eastern European 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.
  • Suicide by Pills: Volodya commits suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.
  • Together in Death: The film ends with Lilya and Volodya playing basketball happily together in the afterlife.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Lilya is first abandoned by her mother, then left by her aunt to fend for herself, then runs out of money and starts to 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 she desperately needs money.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The general beats of Lilya's life — excited for a better life in the USA, abandoned by her mother, entered a relationship with an older man who promised her a better life in Sweden, locked in the apartment by other men upon arriving, forced to prostitute herself until she escapes and commits suicide via jumping off a bridge — are based on the real-life of the Lithuanian girl Danguolė Rasalaitė. You read that right. This actually happened.
  • Visual Title Drop: What Lilya and Volodya carve into the bench.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Lilya is showed discreetly vomiting after her first intercourse with a client.
  • World of Jerkass: Big time. Lilya and Volodya are the only good characters in the film, while everyone else is either a rapist, a pimp, a neglectful parent, an abuser, or an opportunistic backstabber.
  • 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 for 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.