Sixteen-year-old Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is left in the care of her uncaring aunt in the former Soviet Union when her mother abandons her to go to America. Fourteen year old, Volodya (Artiom Boqucharski) , thrown out of his home by his abusive father, befriends her. Their friendship provides a little escapism for both of them but Lilya’s life continues to worsen when her aunt and best friend cruelly turn their backs on her. She quickly runs out of money and has no one to turn to for help. Prostitution seems to be her only option for survival until Andrei appears like a knight in shining armour. They start dating and Andrei makes Lilya feel like a real person again. After a while, Andrei must return to Sweden and he wants her to come with him. At the last minute, Andrei needs to visit a sick grandmother and tells her to go ahead and he will catch up in a few days…
Human cruelty is everywhere in this tragedy, making it a difficult film to watch at times. Lilya dreams of going to America but life isn’t kind to her and she doesn’t have the persona to help herself.
It is hard to believe that a girl with such a heartless mother would not have picked up some of her own survival instincts along the way. Lilya is a young naive girl, not particularly likeable, whose foolish choices are in parts frustrating to watch. Her friend, Volodya, although younger is more streetwise and tries to warn her.
This hard-hitting drama deals with some of the realities of living in the former Soviet Union. We see the slope of Lilya’s life over the space of three months when she is exposed to a seedy world. The film is quiet disturbing as one of the main issues dealt with is sex trafficking in society. We are shown how this can take place and the horror of this from Lilya’s point of view. We aren’t shown, however, the minds of the organisers or the clients except from their indifference to the feelings of Lilya.
The acting of Oksana Akinshina (Lilya) and Artiom Boqucharski (Volodya) is very good. In both of them we see their negative characteristics in spite of their pitiful circumstances.
Bottom Line: Not the type of film that leaves you feeling good. It is an upsetting, gritty film that looks at the life of this tragic abandoned young girl as she tries to survive in the former Soviet Union.