Lilya escapes from her pimp and then tries to commit suicide. There are then two possible endings. In the first, Lilya goes back in time (awakes from a dream?) and tells Andrei she won't go with him and stays with Volodya. The second, she dies from her injuries and is reunited with Volodya in death.
Based on a true story.
Lilya (Oksana Akinshina) is a teenaged girl living in a relatively poor area of Estonia with her Mother in a small but comfortable apartment. Her mother is dating a Russian man who lives in America and is planning to move there with him. Lilya is excited to move to the U.S. and escape her impoverished neighborhood, but her Mother tells Lilya that she is going to the U.S. first and will send for Lilya once she is settled down. The Mother promises to send money to Lilya and that her Aunt Anna will watch her. Unbeknown to Lilya, the Mother simply intends to abandon her daughter and live alone with her new husband in the States.
Once the Mother leaves, Aunt Anna forces Lilya to move into a tiny, decrepit apartment on her own. Aunt Anna claims that nobody can afford her current apartment now that her mother is gone. Lilya is constantly put-down by her teachers and fellow tenants at her new apartment. Things get worse after she is invited by one to a club by one of her friends where men pay to have sex with the women there. Lilya turns down all the men who proposition her, though her friend prostitutes herself. When the friend is caught sneaking home that night, she blames Lilya for being out and says the money she made from prostitution belongs to Lilya (thus implying Lilya whored herself). Word quickly spreads that Lilya is a prostitute and she is treated with contempt. Lilya responds in kind though, often being rude and disrespectful to all her tormenters.
Lilya develops a brother-sister relationship with a young boy named Volodya (Artyom Bogucharskiy). Volodya's life is also bleak as his father is an abusive alcoholic who often forces him to sleep on the streets. His one passion is basketball, though he does not even own a ball. Volodya is obsessed with getting high, using ever more dangerous drugs, although Lilya gets him to reduce his drug-use. The two bond with each other and share the apartment and food Lilya buys. Soon, however, the electricity to Lilya's apartment is shut off as nobody is paying the bills. Lilya discovers that her Aunt has moved into her former apartment and refuses to provide for Lilya, telling her to prostitute herself. Worse yet, Lilya is located by child welfare services and told that her Mother has given up custodial rights over Lilya, making her officially an orphan.
Having no choice, she returns to the sex club and this times begins selling herself. She uses the money to buy food for she and Volodya and even buys him a brand new basketball. Though Volodya's dad is enraged when he finds the gift and punctures the ball, Volodya takes the deflated ball with him wherever he goes. They also discuss Heaven as Lilya devotedly prays to a picture of an angel she was left by her Mother. Volodya says Heaven is a place where all your dreams come true, and that he will be a basketball star in Heaven. Volodya tries to stick up for Lilya against the neighbors who call her a whore. In defiance of her neighbor's taunts an d vitriol, Lilya carves the phrase "Lilya 4-ever" on the bench in the community's common area.
Soon, Lilya begins dating a man named Andrei (Pavel Ponomaryov) who lives in Sweden. He promises to take her with him to Sweden where they will get married and even says he got her a job picking vegetables. Volodya says that Andrei is lying, noting that nobody picks vegetables in the winter. One night, however, neighborhood boys break in to Lilya's apartment and rape her in front of Volodya (who is too small to stop them). Soon after, Lilya tells Andrei she will go with him to Sweden, and he promises he will try and find work for Volodya when they get there. Volodya is heartbroken as he watches Lilya leave with Andrei.
On the way to the airport, Andrei tells Lilya that she will fly ahead to Sweden as he needs to stop in Germany to see his dying grandmother. He says his Boss will meet Lilya in Sweden. When she arrives in Sweden, the Boss takes her to a filthy one-room apartment. All Lilya has brought with her is the picture of the angel, and the Boss confiscates her passport. It soon becomes apparent that Andrei has lied to her and sold her into slavery, with the Boss being a pimp. The Boss says that if she tries to escape, he will kill her. He also says that if she goes to the police, they will deport her to Estonia where Andrei will kill her. Seeing no alternative, Lilya becomes a prostitute, locked in her room whenever she isn't on the streets. Meanwhile, we see that Volodya has purposefully overdosed and died with the deflated basketball in his hands. Noone sheds a tear at his corpse lying in front of the apartment he shared with Lilya.
Volodya begins appearing to Lilya as an angel. Lilya says she wants to die, but Volodya says that life should be valued, no matter how bad, as death lasts for eternity. Lilya becomes more rebellious, but this generally results in severe beatings. One day, Volodya appears to her and tells her the Boss left the door unlocked and Lilya manages to escape. Not knowing anyone and scared to be alone in a foreign country, Lilya stands atop a bridge, preparing to jump off. Volodya begs her not to do it, but she jumps. We cut to an ambulance where the crew works furiously to save her life.
The film then shows us two series of events. In one, Lilya opens her eyes (as if awakening from a dream) and is back in Estonia, sleeping next to a still-alive Volodya. She runs downstairs to where Andrei awaitsand tells him she isn't going to Sweden. We then see Volodya and Lilya playing with each other. The other thing we see is Volodya and Lilya playing basketball together on the rooftops. Both now have a pair of angel wings. The two are happy to be reunited. Either ending may be the real one, or both may simply be fantasy.
Thanks Evan B!