Polina review – dance drama fails to get moving

The story of a young Russian who abandons the Bolshoi to chase her dreams across Europe is frustratingly inert

Here is a well-choreographed and plausible looking movie about the evolution of a young dancer – adapted from a graphic novel by French comic book artist Bastien Vivès. But, despite the panache with which the dance sequences are presented, it is frustratingly inert dramatically.

Anastasia Shevtsova plays Polina, a young Russian dedicated to dance, whose devoted parents are equally dedicated to making her dreams come true and find the money for her to join the Bolshoi when she passes the daunting audition. Her father Anton (Miglen Mirtchev) appears to have earned the money through connections with drug dealers. But talented, passionate Polina abandons the Bolshoi to follow her French lover to Aix, where they both train with charismatic French choreographer Liria (Juliette Binoche). This, too, ends in disaster, and Polina’s artistic and emotional journey takes her to Antwerp, where her quest brings her in contact with Karl (Jérémie Bélingard), who teaches a radically improvisatory dance form, far from the Bolshoi’s icy rigidity.

The film takes us on a slightly perfunctory series of narrative steps. Polina falls in love, falls out of love, finds herself far from home, has to take a bar job to make ends meet (as an illegal, presumably) and finally gets into a depressive state, after which we get the mandatory scene in which Karl gives her some tough love, hauling her out of bed and telling her to get washed and come out for a walk. And yet Shevtsova’s face is always quite impassive. She saves her expression for the dance, which in one sense is fair. But we need her to act, too.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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