Fitness influencer Sylwia has it all: the body, the bubbly personality, and over 600,000 social media followers ready for her latest workout class or smoothie recipe. While her followers often assume friendship, most mean well – and she keeps them at bay and earns an outwardly peaceful, affluent life with her tiny canine companion. At its outset, Sweat seems an aspirational portrait.

Writer-director Magnus van Horn, however, quickly undermines this idyllic 21st century existence by capturing the relentless restlessness of such sustained engagement and the vicious cycle of a perpetually public life. Sylwia uses her Swedish identity and the universal language of exercise, brand sponsorship, and “body positivity” to make a career in Poland, positioning herself as an always-accessible everywoman, while cultivating an exclusive persona. Her familial relationships suffer, as the camera moves rapidly between Sylwia’s stilted in-person responses and back to her ever-beeping phone.

As Sweat progresses, Sylwia’s growing interpersonal isolation and more threatening parasocial relationships are shown with uneasy stillness. The film does not torture protagonist or viewers, the reality of Sylwia’s social seclusion against the legion of fans who worship her persona is a constant menacing undercurrent. Likewise, Sweat does not shy away from the impact of snap judgements in an archivable, public forum, accessible by anyone with an internet connection. Magdalena Koleśnik’s performance instantaneously and authentically switches gears between Instagram charisma and uncontrollable private rages and freezes. As her worlds and modes collide, the resulting claustrophobia cracks carefully composed and impulsive identities, and the bleeding façades chillingly contrast Sylwia’s self-knowledge and self-delusion.

After a few meandering moments in the second act, the film fully earns a grim, hollow, ending that subverts expectations by revealing the depths of Sylwia’s structural servitude. Sweat’s focus may blur on occasion, but its frenetic energy truthfully captures the tiny indignities of shallow connections.  



CAST: Magdalena Koleśnik, Wiktoria Filus, Julian Swiezewski, Wiktoria Stachowicz

DIRECTOR: Magnus van Horn

WRITER: Magnus van Horn

SYNOPSIS: A fitness influencer’s perennially online life earns her legions of adoring fans, a few unwise, unsettling encounters – and not a single true friendship.