Review: 'Polina': When A Dancer's Attempt To Find Herself Falls Short

The French film, Polina, looks at the story of a young female dancer, played by Anastasia Shevtsova,

that abandons the home life and classical training that she's known all of her life in an attempt to

discover herself.

I wanted to like this film, I really did. With it following the journey of a dancer and with me having

had danced all throughout my primary years, though it wasn't as extensive and solely focused on one

style of dance like it was in the film, I knew that there was that underlying factor could create that

sense of connection between me and the character and her story to a certain degree. However,

from the sometimes weird pacing and other times choppy editing, coupled with a feeling of an

apparent lack of direction and lack of connection to said character and her story, the film

ultimately fell flat for me.

While watching this film I couldn't help but to feel that it so desperately wanted to be something that

it unfortunately wasn't. It felt like the filmmakers wanted this film to be that kind of low-budget,

artistic, and reflective indie film that explores the pressures of female adolescence into adulthood all

the while attempting to make some philosophical point about dance and life itself. However, I never

really got the picture that the filmmakers were attempting to paint until maybe the last 30 mins. I

couldn't really tell you what it was that I was supposed to be feeling and/or thinking about any one

scene or the lead character. There would be these moments that visually may have looked good, but

when it came time to understanding how the specific scene fit into the larger picture or message of the

film, the connection would be lost on me. They would add in these scenes or lines that in the moment

felt purposeful but when you look back at the film in retrospect, you still can't really tell what their

purpose was.

There was a sub-plot about Polina's father being involved in some kind of risky business where he

owed some men some money that was touched on briefly throughout the film, and though, whenever

we see or hear about her father having to go away we can infer that it has something to with said

business, it was never really touched on in the way that one would hope. We're left with more

questions than answers by the film's end as to what the whole importance of that sub-plot was. Now,

maybe it was put in to show what exactly her father went through to be able to give his daughter the

opportunity to be able to receive the dance training that she did, but that's just a theory. We're never

really told explicitly what that situation was about or given enough evidence to definitively come to

that conclusion.

There were also, lines of dialogue that were spoken to Polina from various dance instructor's that I

had hoped would have played a bigger part in the film at some point later on, instead of just being

thrown into a scene for emotional effect. One instructor tells Polina that dancing is about "longing,"

while another tells her that her dancing should make them feel something; make them feel "what it's

like to know God." When I heard those lines, I just knew that they would be of importance because

I had assumed that in the end she would have made her dancing be about those very things, but that

wasn't the case. In the movie's defense, maybe I shouldn't have assumed. Maybe Polina's longing for

a closer relationship to her father may have influenced her dancing after that moment, but her

relationship with her father was never explored in that way for her dancing to then be influenced by

it. By the end of the film it just felt like her dancing was her way of proving to herself that she could

be more than just a classical ballerina, and if that was the point of the film, then, I suppose the

filmmakers did a good job of portraying that, but I don't get the feeling that that solely was the case.

Another, unfortunate gripe that I had with the film is the lack of connection that I had with the main

character, Polina, and the actress who played her. We never get any sort of insight into what she's

feeling or thinking throughout the film. Besides that, I never truly felt Polina's passion for dance in

the way that it was meant to come off. The emotion itself throughout much of the film was very

monotone feeling. This could be chalked up to the writing and directing itself, but the feeling that had

they gotten a different actress to play in the role of Polina would've helped me to feel more of her

passion and love for dance was unavoidable.

This was a relatively quiet and subdued film. Because dance is all about the movement of the body

rather than spoken language, it's understandable that the most action and noise that we get from the

film generally happens when there is dancing. So, that's not so much of a gripe or disappointment

with the film, as it is a mere observation and something to note if you do plan to watch it. In terms, of

the dancing itself, everything was beautifully choreographed, but that was more or less to be expected

from a film that's about a dance and that's co-directed by Angelin Preljocaj, a French choreographer

and dancer. I will say, though, that one Polina moved away from her classical training into a more

contemporary, modern, and very "grounded" way of dancing, I did find myself a lot more

encapsulated by the movement.

The last 30 mins of the film were the best minutes of the film, by far. I felt like that's when the movie

unfortunately really started to come alive. Every gripe or disappointment that I had with the film was

either gone or minimized by that point. Because of that, there was a part of me, in an attempt to give

the film the benefit of the doubt (because I really did want to like this film) and try to make meaning

of what it was that I had just watched, that began to think that maybe, everything that happened

before that was purposeful. The confusion, monotony, lack of confusion was all done so that when

Polina finally gains insight and realizes that one way to become a better artist is to find the beauty in

life is crystal clear to the viewer. But, then again, I don't know, and maybe I am just reaching...

Rating: 2.5 out of 5