Lukas Moodysson's latest feature isn't nearly as gentle as his last, the comedy Together. Where that ended on an Abba-scored note of enlightenment, his third film opens with the sound of Euro-metal as 16-year-old Lilya (Oksana Akinsjina) runs towards suicide.
We cut back to how she got here: deserted in a grubby corner of the former Soviet Union by her US-bound mother, Lilya has one friend, 11-year-old Volodya (Artiom Bogutjarskim) and plenty of glue to keep her afloat. Grim is about to get grimmer - in the shape of prostitution and rape. But then Andrei (Pavel Ponomaryov) arrives, dangling promises of a new life...
This is tough stuff, no question, and you really do fear the worst when Volodya airs his suspicions about Andrei. But there is warmth too, the teenage cast bringing Moodysson's affecting take on young friendship to life. It's as touching and tender as anything in his debut, Show Me Love.
Lilya 4-Ever is also powerful and assured: get past one or two fanciful, superfluous fantasy interludes, and Moodysson stays as true to his film's themes of deprivation and despair as Together was to its humane sweetness. If you want proof of a keen, compassionate talent, this bold third feature is it.