Based on Bastien Vivès’s 2011 graphic novel Polina, this stylish coming-of-age story follows the fortunes of young ballerina Polina (Veronika Zhovnytska), who is training under the fearsome Bojinski (Aleksey Guskov) at a Russian dance academy. His disciplined approach instils in her a rigid professionalism that helps secure her a place at the Bolshoi Ballet.
Yet in the restrictive environment of classical dance, the teenage Polina (real-life dancer Anastasia Shevtsova) feels she’s “just stringing moves together, not dancing”. Body and brain respectively awakened by a handsome French dancer (Niels Schneider, the actor’s charm not quite in full bloom here) and a contemporary choreographer (Juliette Binoche, with a particularly unflattering haircut), Polina abandons the stiff classicism she’s dedicated her life to. “I don’t want a pretty dancer,” says Binoche’s Liria. Though the film suggests a hardiness borne of her working-class background and mobster father, Polina remains fairly opaque. At least the contemporary dance sequences are beautifully mounted; French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has a co-director credit on the film.
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