Welcome to another Wednesday movie review here at Bebb and the Bubs. I can't believe it's been 5 weeks since I started my little blog. I know quite a few people are reading it which is good and means I'm not just talking to myself.
Before I start the review, can I just say hooray for holidays! Today I finally feel like the holidays have arrived as I have a whole free day to just be at home. Not that I'm not enjoying catching up with people as well- especially my beautiful friend Dan who is home from the big smoke visiting her family. We caught up for lunch yesterday and laughed a lot about things that would make little to no sense to others, the way you do when the history of your friendship spans years. I wish I could see her more often but it makes the times we catch up extra special.
Anyway, onto today's review...
This film, made by a Swedish director but mainly shot in Russia, opens with a shot of Lilya, her face beaten to a pulp, running down a city street. We then jump back 3 months and begin the story of 15 year old Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) who is forced to fend for herself after her mother moves to America with her new lover and leaves Lilya behind in the nameless, poverty-stricken town they live in. Her aunt, appointed to care for her, instead moves Lilya into a tiny, squalid flat to live on her own, at the same time taking over the larger flat where Lilya lived with her mother. Lilya's best friend, 12 year old Volodya (Artyom Bogucharskiy) is often kicked out by his alcoholic father and seeks refuge with Lilya. With no money and no word from her mother, Lilya turns to prostitution. When she meets seemingly kind and gentle Andrei (Pavel Ponomaryov) and begins a relationship with him, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. But all is not as it seems and we are quickly thrust into the horrific practice of human trafficking and sexual slavery that occurs frequently in Europe.
I had first heard of this movie about 5 years ago. I read about it in a movie magazine and while offering very little in the way of plot details, the article praised it highly. I was intrigued and have been trying to track it down for years. I finally managed to rent it from Quickflix and sat down to watch it. All I knew was that it was an extremely well-made yet confronting and disturbing movie.
Well. What can I say, other than yes, it was very well-made with incredible acting, cinematography and directing, but it was one of the most disturbing, distressing and depressing movies I have ever seen. Throughout the entire movie, more and more terrible things happened to Lilya and when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, it did. Suicide, multiple rape scenes, violence, despair...awful things happened in quick succession and left us reeling. It is not a movie I think I could ever watch again. I was even plagued by nightmares that night concerning the movie. It was made even worse when I looked it up and discovered that it was based entirely and very closely on a true story.
Oksana Akinshina was incredible as Lilya. She fully embodied the character and displayed both Lilya's tough survival skills and fragile vulnerability. I truly cared about what happened to her, which made it all the more upsetting. Likewise, Artyom Bogucharskiy was very powerful as her young friend Volodya. To see such stellar performances from two young actors (they actually were 15 and 12 when shooting the film) was rare and made the movie what it was- powerfully disturbing yet compelling. The director, Lukas Moodysson, created a truly outstanding film with a very dark subject matter and must be commended for bringing such a terrible story, based on events happening every day, into the public sphere. But as outstanding as the film was when you base your assessment on artistic merit alone, I find that I can't recommend this film to you simply because it was so difficult to watch and really did upset me. If you are brave, see it and make up your own mind, but go into it knowing that it won't be a pleasant viewing experience.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
This was a tough one for me to rate and in the end I'll say yes, it was a skillfully made movie, but I won't be watching it again.
Before I go, I just want to say how sorry I am for my best friend MM's loss. Her beautiful budgie Mellow passed away last night at the ripe old age of 12. MM gave Mellow such a happy life and cared for her so well, so it was no wonder she lasted as long as she did. I know MM is very sad and hurting as Mellow really was a member of the family. We lay ourselves open to pain when we let animals into our lives, knowing their lives are so much shorter than ours, but the joy they give us make it worth it and I couldn't imagine a life without animal family members. It doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye though. Thinking of you MM, and rest peacefully little Mellow.