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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

Polina movie review: what it takes to dance ballet

Polina green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A marvelous paean to everything that goes into making great art: hard work, complicated humanity, taking risks, and trusting one’s own instincts. Anastasia Shevtsova is tremendous as a young woman with an indomitable spirit.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female codirector, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Polina dreams of being a ballet dancer as a little girl in Moscow, but she can never seem to satisfy her teacher… an obstacle that troubles her even as she hones her technique and gains admission to the prestigious Bolshoi and later a school of modern dance in France (where Juliette Binoche [Let the Sunshine In] will teach her). Is she too cold and unemotional a dancer, as she keeps hearing? Or does she have to find her own path to expression? Maybe she just needs to grow up and experience life outside of school and studio in order to understand herself? It’s all of the above in this marvelous paean to everything that goes into making great art: hard work, complicated humanity, taking risks, and trusting one’s own instincts. Russian dancer Anastasia Shevtsova is tremendous as Polina, a young woman with an indomitable — and hard-nosed — spirit in the face of enormous obstacles… many of them within herself. Women onscreen don’t often get to be stubborn and difficult in the pursuit of their passions, and it’s often hard to like Polina, though she earns our respect beautifully.


Polina was the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ Movie of the Week for August 25th, 2017. Read the comments from AWFJ members — including me — on why the film deserves this honor.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other theatrical releases.



green light 4 stars

Polina (2017) | directed by Valérie Müller, Angelin Preljocaj
US/Can release: Aug 25 2017
UK/Ire release: Dec 21 2018

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, sex)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

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