Lilya 4-ever (Lilja 4-ever) (2002) • Sweden • Lukas Moodysson

Three recent films dealing with human trafficking: Trade, an unbelievable suck-fest; Jammed, from Australia, which was good, way better than Trade; and Lilya 4-Ever.

Trade was propaganda nonsense Hollywood style and tried to consciousness-raise but failed miserably because its story was too far fetched. Jammed wanted to make you angry showing a lot of how the world of human trafficking suffocates the people inside it. Lilya 4-Ever is a much simpler and more personal story, sad and dreary.

The weather in the film's unnamed Russian locale was awful, foggy and cold, reflecting the life of this poor girl. Lilya's mother leaves her, moves to the States with her new boyfriend, then sends a letter to Social Services renouncing her guardianship of the "unwanted child"; her aunt assumes control of Lilya and essentially takes everything away from her for herself and tells Lilya to go downtown and spread her legs; and her best friend, Anna, tells everyone that Lilya is prostituting herself for money in order to cover up the fact that it's really her that is doing it. So she has nothing except the friendship of another child who has been abandoned by life. Ergo ... easy prey.

Screen time is devoted almost entirely to Lilya and her 14 year glue sniffing friend Volyada. Both performances are well-executed and believable by these two young people. This is the second film I've seen by Swedish writer/director Lukas Moodysson. The other was Fucking Åmål (Show me Love). He tells simple stories and I think this helps to get sympathetic performances from his young actors.

Of the three trafficking films mentioned here, this one is probably the best, but it is also the least about trafficking. It's a sad story about a simple girl whose life is pulled out from under her.


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