Film Review: Olga

Olga ready to compete

While the horrific events and war crimes taking place in Ukraine have dominated news channels around the world, this is not a new conflict. Indeed, former President Yanukovych’s botched attempt to force the country towards Putin, sparking the Maidan protests, was the catalyst for the Kremlin starting the war by invading and annexing Crimea in 2014.  Olga tracks a gymnast desperate for success against the backdrop of those tumultuous events in Kiev.

Olga (Anastasia Budiashkina) is a talented 15-year-old Ukrainian gymnast fully focused on preparing for the European Championships. This is becoming increasingly difficult due to the growing political turmoil and threats to her mother’s (Tanya Mikhina) life because she’s a journalist. Thanks to her late father’s nationality, Olga takes the opportunity to train for the Swiss national team. However, the events unravelling in her homeland are never very far away.

Olga performs a delicate balancing act, blurring the line between coming-of-age drama, political commentary and sports film. The decision by director Elie Grappe to cast actual gymnasts works in its favour. Not only in the authenticity of both practice and competition but with the understated and more naturalistic performances. These are after all teenagers, with the same struggles, anxieties and fears as anyone their age but with the added trauma of watching their country explode. Olga is a well-judged and moving drama.

Nationwide previews of Olga take place across the UK from 18 March.

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