Ukrainian gymnast Olga (Anastasia Budiashkina) finds herself exiled to Switzerland as she trains for the regional Olympics team while the 2013 Euromaidan revolts erupt in her country. Faced with the impossible choice to return home or continue competing, Olga must muster the strength needed to carry on fighting for her homeland, her family, and herself.
Despite its seemingly simple story, Olga, directed by Elie Grappe and written by himself and Raphaëlle Desplechin, is a surprisingly emotional and raw exploration into the intricacies of politics and family. We meet Olga in the midst of her training and at the boiling point of civil unrest in Ukraine. Olga’s mother is a journalist and thus forces Olga to relocate to Switzerland in order to continue training without standing out as a target like her mother.
The dynamic between Olga and her mother is one of the strengths of the film and serves as its emotional core. When the revolts in Ukraine continue to escalate, Grappe and Desplechin wittingly marry this with Olga’s increasing concern about her mother’s safety. Not only does this give weight to Olga’s situation, it also allows the viewer to learn about and understand the gravity of a rather important historical event in world politics.
Now admittedly, the only real tension here lies solely with the scenes focused on Euromaidan (cleverly spliced with real footage from the event itself). This ultimately gives the film a bit of dullness when not focused on the riots themselves. Luckily, Budiashkina’s acting and Grappe’s directing make sure the moments spent in the gymnastics gym aren’t wasted. Budiashkina gives an emotional performance that is equal parts stubborn teen and concerned adult. She is definitely a talent to keep an eye on.
Ultimately, Olga is a solid film with a timely message. With a story held together by mature performances and solid directing, even some of the duller moments can be overlooked in favor of the emotional relevance of Olga’s journey.
Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), July 19, 2021. Running time: 85 min.
PRODUCTION: A Pulsar Content distribution of a Cinéma Defacto and Point Prod production. Producers: Tom Dercourt and Jean-Marc Fröhle.
CREW: Director: Elie Grappe. Writers: Raphaëlle Desplechin and Elie Grappe. Cinematography: Lucie Baudinaud. Editing: Suzana Pedro. Music: Pierre Desprats.
CAST: Anastasia Budiashkina, Sabrina Rubtsova, Caterina Barloggio, Théa Brogli, Jérôme Martin, Tanya Mikhina, Alicia Onomor, Lou Steffen, Aleksandr Mavrits, Philippe Schuler, Stéphanie Chuat