Movie Review: Lilja 4-ever (2002)

Hello there, friends. This is it. The final post.

Got ya there, didn’t I? But in all seriousness, this is the last Summer of the Swedes post I’m doing. I know I didn’t do many posts for this series of mine, but I didn’t intend for it to be an intense deep dive into my country’s filmography, just a bit of motivation to watch a few more films from it than usual. So my mad ramblings will go back to the usual versatility after this. So yeah. Here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Lilja 4-ever”.

16-year old Lilja (Oksana Akinsjina) doesn’t have a great life. Often neglected by her parents, scraping by in life, she finds herself dreaming of a better life somewhere far away from her home in Russia. This movie has a story that seldom lets up when it comes to its drama, it’s a profoundly depressing experience that absolutely haunted my soul for several hours after watching it. Even in some of the light moments where there’s joy on Lilja’s face, there is this underlying sadness to the situation, you know that even though there is this fleeting moment of joy, that is exactly what it is… fleeting. It’s a really well told story that I found utterly compelling, giving us a nuanced look at this young girl’s life… but man, it’s also incredibly sad.

The characters in this don’t really feel like characters, they feel grounded and very real. Oksana Akinsjina plays Lilja, the titular girl. She’s a very complex individual, showing off a ton of realistic nuance that is seldom seen in film And Akinsjina is fantastic in the role. Then we have Artiom Bogutjarskij as Volodya, a young boy who is one of Lilja’s only true friends. Devoted, a little sassy, and clearly crushing on her, he’s an interesting foil for the narrative that helps ground Lilja a bit more, giving her a bit of an anchor when things escalate around her. And Bogutjarskij is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Elina Benenson, Pavel Ponomarjov, Lilija Sjinkarjova, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nathan Larson, and it was good. It’s not very showy, going for a more low-key subtle string-based thing to create drama and emotion, which I think works pretty well. There were also some licensed music for a few scenes. And while I wouldn’t listen to those tracks in my own time, I think they work well enough in their respective scenes, fitting the narrative being told in those moments.

“Lilja 4-ever” was written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, who I think did a fantastic job. His direction has a very fly on the wall kinda of approach, never feeling flashy (bar one weird zoom early on in the film), therefore immersing me even more in the drama. Combine this with the dirty neighborhood we spend so much time in, and you get a world that feels very lived in. It all comes together into one hell of an engrossing and real-feeling experience.

This film has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“Lilja 4-ever” is a really depressing drama that I highly recommend. It has a great story, good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and fantastic directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Lilja 4-ever” is a 9,57/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Lilja 4-ever” is now completed.

I highly recommend bringing a pet or a loved one. Not because it’s a good date movie, but because you might need someone to hug when your heart gets crushed.

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