Sixteen-year-old Lilja and her only friend, the young boy Volodja, live in Estonia, fantasizing about a better life. One day, Lilja falls in love with Andrej, who is going to Sweden, and invites Lilja to come along and start a new life.
I say I had rather low expectations about this move. Roughly knowing about the plot, I was imagining this will be one of those narrow stories, full of black-and-white morality and silly unrealistic characters, to which is impossible to relate. I’m happy to admit, I was wrong.
It’s true that Lilja is in the center and other characters, with exception of Volodja, could use some development, but in the end this is the story about Lilja, so it’s excusable.
Both main characters are written very well, and there was no time in the movie, when I’d shake my head in disbelieve.
Lilja is obnoxious, rude, self-centered and arrogant, but above all - naive. She’s all you’d expecting a sixteen years old girl would be. All this, perhaps paradoxically, makes her relatable and even likable. She appears like a real human being, not just an object constructed in writer’s mind, and painted with light colors. She’s not portrayed as an absolute victim, but rather, especially at the end, different reality is presented, giving us understanding that there was a role she played in her own victimhood, and she could pick slightly different path, if she’d stopped and think a little bit. That does not take away from the fact that what happened to her was tragic, it doesn’t minimize the fact that many people in her life were abusive and that she was victimized, not just at the end, but through her whole life, by her mother, relatives, and people in her surrounding.
Let’s talk about Volodja now, his character is equally tragic, and he’s there to remind us, that gender or age plays no role in it; in a rough economical situation, everyone who’s subjected to it, inevitably, is a victim of it. Volodja is basically retelling of Lilja’s story, slightly different circumstances, but at the end, the same result. Exactly because their circumstances are so similar, they were able to become friends and find support in each other.
Both Volodja and Lilja are brilliantly constructed, and you can easily establish deep emotional connection with them. The emotional happening is further emphasized with foggy and rainy setting and gray, oppressive architecture. The choice of music is good and fitting. All together, movie’s impact is significant and I highly, highly recommend you to watch it.
Furthermore, a little bit of spoilers. Supernatural aspect add completely new dimension to the move. As Volodja left physical realm, he gained maturity and wisdom, and he offers deeper insight into the situation. “The whole world. The houses, cars, streets, the wind… it’s all yours.”, he explains to Lilja; how beautiful, wise and full of hope and significance is this. Volodja came back as a guide, his words are empowering, they show perspective which Lilja, together with many of viewers I feel, overlooked or misunderstood.