I will be covering a few plot points in the following review but nothing too specific. Also, I'm a life-long atheist and not a Christian but the review will be covering various religious and Christian themes.
A young Russian girl's life falls apart until she is left with nothing and the film could be interpreted as a modern Book of Job crossed with the temptation of Christ. This symbolism is quite gentle at the start but by the end the film could be treated as a modern gospel.
The overall theme of the film is that we should live in the now, be nice and take pleasure in the simple things; the gift of a basketball, friendship. These are what make life worth living and, if we believe in it, the promise of eternal salvation should not be rushed toward like a child running toward a sweetshop.
At one point, Lilya explains that both her and Britney Spears were born on the same date and her friend remarks that "Imagine that you were mixed up in hospital, then you'd be Britney Spears". Britney is obviously better off financially than our Lilya, but both seem suffer the same problems. Would her life be better as Britney? Probably not. Does this matter to Lilya? Probably not.
Volodya sums up the film perfectly towards the end: "You remain dead for all eternity, but you're alive only for a brief moment".
Some of the religious symbolism (there's loads more to look out for):
- Recitation of the lord's prayer at the beginning and end of the film
- The title Lilya 4-Ever indicating some form of eternal life.
- Lilya's picture of the angel which she always wraps so carefully and is the only constant in her life. Breaking the picture of the angel symbolises Lilya's loss of faith.
- The discussion of heaven between Lilya and Volodya.
- Andrei, satan in a red car, promising her earthly delights and a better life in Sweden, and as it turns out, in exchange for her body and soul.
- Lilya's dream of Volodya with angel wings. Volodya is Lilya's angel from her picture in the flesh. Her salvation which she gave up for Andrei. He was also forsaken by Lilya.
- It's Christmas during the worst part of Lilya's life.
After the film had finished I went upstairs and kissed my 13 year old daughter goodnight, as I always do.
A final parting shot from your's truly. Apologies to any believers out there but if god demands trials, such as Lilya's, as proof of faith then surely god isn't worthy of our worship.
Thanks to Eli Hayes for his review which pushed me into buying and watching this film.
Original letterboxd review