Chimo (played by Mohammed Khouas) is a nineteen-year-old self-described loser who lives in an Arab ghetto with his mother in post-9/11 Marseille. Unemployed, he turns down an opportunity to study (free of charge) at a writers’ school for teenagers in Paris despite showing real promise as a writer. Instead, he wastes his day hanging around with other unemployed and aimless “losers”. He falls for Lila (Vahina Giacante), a beautiful blonde sixteen-year-old who just moved into the neighborhood with her eccentric and sexually abusive aunt. Lila is a self-styled “bad girl” who presents an overtly sexual person; they begin a tentative romance after Lila invites him to look up her skirt while she rides a swing.
Meanwhile, Mouloud (Karim Ben Haddou), Chimo’s best friend and leader of their band of friends, also sets his sights on Lila. He begins to sexually harass Lila, not allowing her to walk the streets of the neighborhood unmolested. Chimo’s disgust at Mouloud’s behaviour towards Lila creates a huge rift between them. Mouloud, resentful of Chimo’s changing attitude toward him and Lila’s sexual indifference, vents his aggressions by attacking Lila and her aunt at home and raping Lila. Chimo is broken when he discovers Lila was in fact still a virgin, despite her stories of outrageous sexual adventures. This is confirmed by finding her scrapbook showing the sources of the titillating, but fictional, stories she told him. Lila is taken away by her aunt, leaving Chimo heartbroken. He eventually manages to convince a police detective to let him telephone Lila, whereupon he simply says “I love you” and she says “I know”. It is implied at the end that he plans to meet Lila who is in Poland for the summer. However as he remembers his experiences with Lila, he writes about them, winning the writing scholarship he scorned earlier, and ultimately changing his life and allowing him to escape the poverty of his home city and to study among the best in Paris. Lila changed Chimo’s world, as he did hers.
“Lila says” received mainly positive reaction and reviews: As of April 18, 2008 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes 69% of critics gave the movie positive reviews. On IMDb the movie holds an average of 7.1/10 based on 1136 votes.
Directed by: Ziad Doueiri
Produced by: Marina Gefter
Written by: “Chimo” (novel) – Ziad Doueiri
Starring: Vahina Giocante – Mohammed Khouas
Distributed by: Pyramide Distribution
Release date(s): 26 January 2005 (France)
Running time: 89 min.