A sparse, desolate film, I found myself loving Lilya 4-Ever. As previous reviewers have mentioned, Americans don't make films this way. Oftentimes Americans don't even make documentaries this way. The story just happens. It's not even so much a story as it is a glimpse into a few lives as they'd be seen by a fly on the wall. There really isn't a point of view or any sort of guiding voice. What I mean is that there's no real "director's or storyteller's perspective" trying to tell us how to feel about what we're seeing. Okay, of course there is. It's just that it's so subtle you feel you've become part of Lilya's inner circle for a while.
The movie is tightly focused, though. I don't want my previous comments to make the movie seem like a scattershot, haphazard stab where it seems like the crew turned the cameras on and hoped for the best. It's not like that at all. By Hook or by Crook largely felt that way, and suffered because of it. Lilya is a minor masterpiece.
Since almost every reviewer has mentioned it, I will too. I netflixed this movie (I live in the midwestern USA) and it played fine in my normal, standard American region 1 dvd player. Is the product sold here different than what I rented from netflix? I guess it is. I wonder why netlfix seemingly offers region 1 versions of Lilya 4-Ever but the general public cannot purchase them. All I know is that I watched it twice in 3 days before returning it.
I didn't know the movie headed into sex trade territory before watching it. Way before anything of a sexual nature occurred, I could tell where the story was headed. I think it's because a couple years ago I read The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade. If, like a previous reviewer, you're wondering how, where or if this sort of thing happens, read The Natashas. It happens. Human trafficing as a means to feed the global sex trade is sort of like FGM/FGC in that it's one of planet earth's biggest dirty little secrets.
The acting here is top notch. Oksana (Lilya) was either born to play this role or had a maestro of an acting teacher. This movie is more like watching the home movies of some destitute Estonian girl than it is like watching someone who took classes or memorized lines. It just feels like real life, albeit real lives no one should have to endure.