Lila Says (2004)

 “I’m like a Ferrari in the middle of a junkyard.”

In Ziad Doueiri’s film Lila Says (Lila Dit Ca) Chimo (Mohammed Khouas) is an Arabic Muslim teenager living with his mother in a poverty stricken Marseilles neighbourhood. With few opportunities, Chimo and his three friends Mouloud (Karim Ben Haddou), Bakary (Lotfi Chakri) and Big Jo (Hamid Dkhissi) are geared towards a life of petty crime when a young blonde named Lila (Vahina Giocante) moves into the neighbourhood.

Chimo strikes up a relationship with Lila. Quiet, shy Chimo doesn’t really quite know what to make of Lila–especially when she begins suggesting outrageous sexual acts to Chimo–most of which key into male fantasies. Is she a tease heady with her own power? Is she disarmingly uninhibited, or is she seriously damaged by her murky past? While Chimo is flummoxed and tries to make up his mind just how serious Lila’s suggestions are, he’s paralyzed into fascinated attraction. Lila’s stories may confuse Chimo and leave him unsure of how to proceed, but his friends take an entirely different approach to Lila.

Lila Says is a beautifully realised film with exquisite camera shots, and a great soundtrack. The film captures Chimo’s naivete and confusion–he’s simply never run into a girl like Lila before, and consequently, he has no idea how to act. While the film is poignant, it also simultaneously manages to be both tragic and optimistic at the same time–no easy task for any film to achieve. The story–with its accompanying cinematography has a hypnotic power–and this echoes Lila’s power over the smitten Chimo. Given the film’s overall unusual approach to the relationship between Lila and Chimo, its conclusion is a little predictable, and some of the most interesting plot threads remain unexplored. In French with English subtitles. If you enjoy Lila Says I recommend the film The Disenchanted.

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