Based on a controversial French novel, Lila Says tells the story of a quiet young poet named Chimo (Mohammed Khouas) who develops a crush on the pretty, blond Lila (Vahina Giocante), a girl who recently moved into his Arab ghetto with her aunt. When the leader of a rival gang also falls for Lila, the ensuing love triangle initiates a journey of sexual discovery -- and sets off a chain of devastating events.
Are close-ups of a hot blonde nymphette talking dirty enough to make for a quality film? No, but they don’t hurt. In a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Marseilles, 19-year-old Chimo has potential to be a writer, but believes like his trouble-making friends that he has no future. He does at least have an interesting present: Young Lila (Vahina Giocante), an orphan living with her aunt, has taken to sharing explicit stories and fantasies with him. Though writer/director Ziad Doueiri includes a political undercurrent, this is mostly a fascinating sort-of-love story of Lila becoming Chimo’s naughty muse, in scenes shot with such intimate close-ups that it’s easy to feel as awkward and uncomfortable as Chimo does. The resolution takes an ugly if somewhat predictable turn, but the two central performances give Lila Says a surprising heat.