Devastating teenage-abuse-hell drama from director of Together
DIRECTED BY Lukas Moodysson
STARRING Oksana Akinshina, Artiom Bogucharskij, Pavel Ponomarev
Opens April 25, Cert 18, 109 mins
As harrowing and distressing as Lars Von Trier’s Breaking The Waves or Dancer In The Dark, but a better film, this establishes Moodysson as, quite possibly, the post-millennial Bergman. The elder Swede’s already described him as “a young master”. His lovely 2000 film Together shrugged and smiled sweetly when things got rough. This one just keeps on getting rougher: it’s uncompromising and unforgettable. Maid In Manhattan it’s not.
Sixteen-year-old Lilya (the astonishingly open, brittle and proud Akinshina) exists (rather than lives) in a drab suburb “somewhere in the former Soviet Union” (actually Estonia). The buildings can’t get it up to be grey; the trees don’t know what a leaf is. She and equally poor young friend Volodya (Bogucharskij) dream of America, of the luxuries enjoyed and symbolised by Britney Spears and Michael Jordan. When Lilya’s mum runs off with her new man, the girl’s forced to drop out of school, sniff glue, and fend for herself. Shafted by her wicked aunt, she has no food and no electricity?it’s only a matter of time before she’s reduced to acts of prostitution.
Hope?that cruel temptress?arrives in the form of Andrei (Ponomarev), a handsome charmer. Lilya’s spirits lift. He invites her to Sweden: a flat and a job await. Escape at last! Lilya marvels at the airport shops, the prettiest things she’s ever seen, the baubles for sale. But at the other end of the journey, a horrible destiny crushes her back down.
“It was meant to be a film about God’s benevolence,” Moodysson has said, “but reality reared its head and it became something else.” Reality kicks doggedly at the characters’ shins, but it’s their dreams (as with the girls in his debut, Fucking