Bryant’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m coming to this film after two of Moodysson’s optimistic movies, Together and We Are the Best! I knew there’s a lot of grimness in his oeuvre, and I wondered how this one would hit me.
I wound up seeing a consistency in what I’ve seen of Moodysson’s work. He has a deep understanding of loneliness. Sometimes lonely people find togetherness. Sometimes… not.
The construction of this film is so good. The angel wings didn’t surprise me because they were front and center in Lilya’s painting from the beginning. The scenes on the bridge echo one another. And, speaking of bridges, the whole movie is structured around journeys: the mother going to the US, the journey between apartments, the journey to and from the nightclub, and the journey to Sweden. Crossing bridges never leads to anything good; it’s apt that a bridge was the means of Lilya’s escape.
There’s another parallel, now that I think about it. Lilya’s mother is going to her own form of sex slavery; she’s the classic mail order bride. Lilya’s situation is worse, but it’s a difference of degree rather than kind.
Then there’s the details. Most of this movie is shot in single shots, even when characters are talking. There aren’t a lot of two shots, because Moodysson is concerned with loneliness. Lilya and Volodya are the only close relationship and even they’re not often in frame together.
The rooftops: solace, and also a place far from the world. Looking down on the world from that vantage point, Lilya can see that it’s not very good.
All this analysis is a shield from the heartbreak. That scene with Forever Young playing in the background hurts. Even the music is a lie. Oksana Akinshina‘s magnificent performance is a girl losing her youth in front of our eyes.
The POV shots.
I’ll be sitting with the ending a while. I tend to think that Lilya’s visitor was all in her mind; at one point she’s literally woken from a dream, and the wings are, as noted, directly from her painting. The ambiguity is still good; we should feel lost and uncertain. It’s only fair.