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Lila Says (2004)

Cast: Vahina Giocante, Vahina Giocante, Mohammed Khouas, more...
Director: Ziad Doueiri, Ziad Doueiri
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Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Foreign
Running Time: 91 min.
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
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A self-styled bad girl leads a teenage boy down a frustrating path in this drama from France. Chimo Jarjoura (Mohammed Khouas) is a 19-year-old student living in Marseilles. Chimo likes to write and has genuine talent, but he hasn't been able to break away from his friends Mouloud (Karim Ben Haddou), Big Jo (Houd Dkhissi), and Bakary (Lofti Chakri), who are more interested in petty crime than in building a future and are suspicious of Chimo's non-Muslim teachers. One day Chimo meets a 16-year-old girl named Lila (Vahina Giocante), and is immediately smitten, especially when she makes it clear she's attracted to him. However, while Chimo falls head over heels for Lila, he soon discovers she's far more interested in talk than action, and that she isn't eager to limit her attentions to one man. Lila Says made its North American debut at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Realistic Romance by Battie June 2, 2006 - 3:26 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Lila Says started off a little slow, and a little weird (though Chimo certainly made up for it; besides being very sexy, he was talented--double whammy), but that last thirty minutes or so were absolutely amazing. It does the same thing a lot of Asian films do: It works up to an ending that explains why you watched the movie, why seemingly unnecessary details were there. And the ending is what seals the movie into something unforgettable.

Chimo, both the character and actor playing him, is gorgeous with a quiet, simmering intensity to him. The attraction that leaps between him and Lila was just wonderful. Not a lot is said with dialogue in this movie to make you believe in the characters' love and affection for each other, but plenty is said in other ways. The director knew just how to get the most out of Khouas and Giancante. So many movies show too little of body language and facial expressions, but Lila Says used them to the fullest. Expressions of uncertainty, desire, grief, humor...all done with more talent than I could've expected. It's also the conversations and what's not said that made the movie unforgettable. I love dialogue, but if an actor can give dialogue without speaking, I love it even more. Most actors can't.

To me, Lila was testing her boundaries, and his. She wanted to see how much he could handle before he walked away. How much he'd take before he'd demand sex. She was exploring her sexuality without actually having sex. It was a dance between them. Again, in my opinion. But, while she at first seemed like a raunchy bit of fluff, something she told Chimo later gave her an unexpected depth, an intelligence. Without that, perhaps Lila Says wouldn't have been such a good movie. By rounding out Lila's character, giving her insight and pride, she became a good counterpart to Chimo, instead of a one-dimensional character.

I'm going to admit I'm a fan of movies that test sexual boundaries of the viewer. Lila Says didn't push them far, but it did push them. Forced you to see Lila's sexual antics, if you didn't already, as part of an engaging young woman instead of simply judging her and them as immoral and disgusting. Admittedly, the ending could be considered judgemental, but I didn't look at it that way. Chimo's love was, IMO, meant as an acceptance of who she was. (O'course, since the movie is based on a book by an author named Chimo...maybe it's not plot device at all. Don't know enough about the author or the book to say.)

Lila Says is so subtle, that unless you're watching carefully, you'll probably miss how good it is. In fact, once I watched it a second time (right on the heels of the first viewing--something I never do), I caught onto even more subtle tones. The movie was about sexual expression, the boundary that some cross over in an attempt to express it, the subtle cues and not-so-subtle cues between two potential sexual partners and, more importantly, a love story. It's definitely not for everyone, but I'm going to add it to my library. It was so intense and so good. :) It was like an erotic romance that took a wrong turn somewhere and found itself in the real world, perfect for me.

A Love Story Full of Wonder and Truth by talltale December 4, 2005 - 8:25 AM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Believable characters are vital to any film that aspires to the rank of a top-notch love story, coming-of-age narrative or cross-culture tale. LILA SAYS, directed and written by Ziad Doueiri, reaches that height in all three genres because he's given us characters of remarkable specificity, sadness and charm. This is one beautiful movie in just about every way you could ask, starting with the characters Chimo and Lila, who live in a Muslim ghetto outside of Paris. Lila's sexual overtures to Chimo--a bright, sensitive (and gorgeous) kid--set the plot in motion, into which are mixed Chimo's mom, friends and school teacher, along with Lila's rather odd aunt.

The attraction and feelings that bloom between the two young people, while highly sexual, are shown with such artistry, imagination and compassion that you'll be swept into the love story and stay with it through each interesting turn. There are surprises awaiting you, and such beauty of face, place, and character that this film may remain in memory for a long while--up there, perhaps, with your other film favorites. (Much credit is also due to the crack photography from British TV veteran John Daly.)

The two leads, Vahina Giocante as Lila and Mohammad Khouas as Chimo, are memorable, as is Karim Ben Haddou as Chimo's best buddy. Giocante ("Marie Baie des Anges") has long been a known quantity, but if we don't see Khouas and Haddou again soon, there ain't no movie justice. Doueiri, who directed 1998's "West Beirut" and is now directing Showtime's "Sleeper Cell," is a filmmaker from whom we will clearly--and deservedly--be hearing more.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.60)
15 Votes
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