Olga by Elie Grappe [9/10]

A pity that the trailer for “Olga” is unattractive, suggesting a chaotic Eastern European movie, a pity because the movie is utterly compelling. We follow the strivings of young Ukranian Olga, trying to succeed in the tough world of international gymnastics, at the time of the 2014 Maidan Revolution. Olga’s mother is a fearless journalist on the side of the revolutionaries and Olga flees her home country to join the Swiss time (her divorced father is Swiss), relinquishing her original passport. The cinematography is brilliant, portraying the visceral thuds and squeaks of gymnastics close-up, and the lead actor Anastasia Budiashkina fully inhabits her fifteen-year-old aspirant, coming of age while torn between her ambitions and love of her country. I had feared the movie would lapse into narrative incoherence but director and co-writer Eli Grappe maintains a firm, paced control over the escalating plotline. The juxtaposition of the Euro championships with the bravery and carnage on the streets of Kiev is wonderfully dramatic and, it must be said, most relevant today. Olga is a 2023 must-see.

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