Pretty 16-year-old Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is excited to be going to America with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend – but it’s not to be. Left alone in her bleak Russian home town, with no-one who cares about her except her younger neighbourhood friend Volodya (Artiom Bogucharski), Lilya drifts and beds men aimlessly around the dance clubs until she meets a nice young man (Pavel Ponomarjov) who offers to take her to Sweden, where work and a life of luxury awaits. She’s in for a rude shock.
 

4
The performances are so powerful, truly a gut-wrenching experience.

16-year-old Lilya lives with her mother somewhere in what was once the Soviet Union. She's excited because her mother's new boyfriend is taking them to America, but at the last minute the mother breaks the awful news: Lilya must stay behind, the mother may come for her later. She is forced to move into a dreadful place where the previous occupant recently died and her only real friend is Volodya, an 11-year-old homeless boy. Then she meets Andrei, who isn't like the other men - he says he'll take Lilya to Sweden - but Andrei turns out to have another agenda altogether.

This new film by Lukas Moodysson, the director of Show Me Love, is a very grim depiction of the grinding poverty in some parts of the old USSR and the way the rich western countries are exploiting their eastern neighbours. Mostly filmed in Estonia, the film benefits from a great performance from Oksana Akinshina as Lilya - Akinshina previously appeared in the late Sergei Bodrov Jr's Sisters. I could have done without the hand-held camerawork, and the occasional flashes of fantasy, but they don't matter that much because the central performance here is so very powerful and the sad little story so utterly, tragically real.