French Film Festival Review: Polina

The struggles of a young dancer to overcome adversity to fulfil her dream of dancing as an expression of herself, not just as a series of steps strung together.

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Polina is a film for all lovers of ballet, modern dance and inspirational dramas. It details the aspirations and struggles of a young dancer to overcome adversity to fulfil her dream of dancing as an expression of herself and not just a series of steps strung together.

The story is adapted from Bastien Vives’ graphic novel and set in Moscow in the early 1990s. Polina, aged 8, is an aspiring ballerina. From a poor background, she joins the famous school of Professor Bojinsky, who trains dancers for the Bolshoi Ballet. He immediately senses her potential and pushes her to her limits. At only 18 her dream finally comes true and she enters the prestigious Bolshoi. She meets Adrien, a handsome French dancer. He helps her to discover not only love but, more importantly, a new form of dance, more contemporary and expressive.

From Moscow to Aix-En-Provence and Antwerp, from success to disillusion, we follow Polina’s incredible destiny as she meets Sergio and learns to dance from the soul and find her life’s vocation as a choreographer.

Anastasia Shevtsova (Polina) is a young dancer from St. Petersburg in her first film role. At ten, she entered the Academy of the Russian Ballet, from which she graduated nine years later. She embodies Polina: her dogged determination and elegance when dancing, and her creativity when choreographing. She conveys an earthiness yet vulnerability in her performance and is totally captivating in her transformation from novice dancer to choreographer.

Juliette Binoche as the modern dance director once again demonstrates her versatility. Her modern dance sequence is entirely believable. She injects experience and wisdom into all her scenes.

Niels Schneider (Adrien, the Parisian dancer) and Sergio Diaz (Sergio, the youth worker) are the two loves of Polina’s life and each serve a different purpose. Schneider awakens Polina to first love and the possibilities of a different dance form, and Diaz is her true love and helps her fulfil her career purpose. Both actors deliver intense and engrossing performances.

Add to these performances some memorable modern dance sequences and you have film that is for all tastes, not solely for dance lovers.

Reviewed by Barry Hill
Twitter: @kinesguy

Rating out of 10:  8

Polina will screen again on 17 April for the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival, which runs 30 March – 23 April 2017 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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