Had no idea what this movie was. Just looked it up at a theater I go to, this popped up.
It looks pretty interesting. It’s a French film, about this young Russian girl who wants to become a professional dancer in France. Thing is, she’s trained in ballet, and the prestigious school she enters is more modern. It kind of feels like LEAP! (2017) if I was going to take it seriously.
I can’t claim to know most of the cast, but one name that stands out is Juliette Binoche. She was in GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017), CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA (2014), and GODZILLA (2014).
No real point in me pointing out the crew either. I don’t recognize any names, nor any previous projects, so… damn.
Anyway, it looks like it could be pretty good. Not super excited, but I have a passing interest.
This is my honest opinion of: POLINA
Polina (Anastasia Shevtsova) is a young Russian girl who spent most of her life training to become a ballet dancer, both as a personal passion of hers, as well as a necessity for her financially unstable family. Later on into young adulthood, she meets a French dancer named Adrien (Niels Schneider) and follows him to France to pursue a different form of dance; more modern.
FUN FACT: This is actually based on a graphic novel, also called “Polina.”
Anywho, I like it. It’s certainly a different kind of movie that I’m not used to, but it’s got a lot of merit going for it.
To start, the dancing it very technical and interesting to watch as you see Polina getting criticized and corrected by her teachers. And this film tackles a few types of dance not often seen on film, from classical ballet to modern dance and choreography. If I had a guess, Shevtsova is a trained dancer, no body doubles, so I can imagine that learning ballet is a whole ‘nother skillset to learn something more modern. In that respect, huge kudos for the vast amount of talent. What I really appreciate about the film is how the movie acknowledges the difference in skill. While all the dance forms showcased in the movie are all treated like a work of art, the audience is shown a drastic difference in energy and delivery of movements. Speaking as someone who doesn’t dance… probably couldn’t slowly sway with my girlfriend without breaking a few bones in each foot… I really found it fascinating to watch. In ballet, the focus in making each movement beautiful, fluid, the strenuous physical requirements to pull off certain moves, it’s tiring to even watch, but I did develop an appreciation for it. And when the focus switches to modern dance, it’s higher, more flashy energy. Sharp, aggressive, fast motions, but easy to follow. Certainly, it’s depressing to think that I can’t move like that, but I will always admire dancers for it.
Straying away from talking about the dancing, which is probably coming off as just repetitive ramblings from someone who clearly doesn’t know how to talk about dance, let’s talk about the titular character, Polina. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked Shevtsova’s acting. She seemed pretty stiff and uncomfortable with the camera if she wasn’t performing a dance. I also wasn’t feeling any real passion from Polina, though in truth, this is likely due to a writing or directing issue. Here’s what I mean, Polina is training to be a ballet dancer, starting at age eight, played by Veronika Zhovnytska. Until we get to her young adult life, I felt like Polina stopped caring about ballet. But then there’s scenes where she stays after class to understand what is wrong with her technique. It seemed a bit unbalanced in acting. But honestly, I don’t hold this against the movie too much because the rest from this point on is almost pitch perfect. The connection between Polina and her mom and dad feels genuine, you feel for her struggles as she looks for dancing work in France, you share in her little frustrations in working in a bar to make money, it’s all pretty engaging.
About the only real problem that I had with the film is unresolved subplots. There’s one involving Polina’s father, who seems like is involved with gangsters and has a debt to pay off, but I don’t think the story ever truly resolved it. It’s just something that seemed unnecessarily thrown in there. Also, the movie makes it out like Polina’s career in dance with give her family some kind of prestige or gain some kind of status (I don’t know Russia’s culture), provided she does well in ballet, but she up and leaves class to join her French boyfriend in France to pursue his dance career instead. So… what happens to the family? There’s only maybe one or two scenes dedicated to this subplot, but they’re so well-acted that you’d think Polina’s actions would have some repercussions, other than what happens to her, and I don’t think karma is a theme in the flick. But no, this plot point gets dropped too.
All in all, it’s a good movie. It’s beautifully shot, making the dancing look gorgeous. The acting is wonderful, Polina’s journey is visceral, it’s all worth watching. I highly recommend this to anyone who’s a dancer and would be interested in their opinions if the techniques are authentic and it’s a true representation of what dance is all about. In any case, I like it, and I’m happy I saw it.
My honest rating for POLINA: 4/5