Elie Grappe’s sports and politics drama, set against the 2013-2014 Maidan Uprising, skilfully captures societal unrest through the eyes of a youngster with ambitions she tries – and fails – to separate from her country’s divide. 15-year-old Olga is a promising member of the Ukrainian national gymnastics team, but her mother – a journalist exposing government corruption – has become a target, jeopardising Olga’s athletic progress and personal safety. With a deceased Swiss father, Olga is sent to train in Switzerland with their national team as her mother stays behind and her best friend Saha integrates activism into her performances. 

In some respects, Olga is the typical sports coming-of-age drama – Olga’s spiky interactions with new teammates, determined to prove her worth and place, form the primary interpersonal drama. Throughout, the film never undersells its teenage protagonist’s personal ambitions – repeated footage of her trying and often failing to execute the Jaeger on the uneven bars is nail-biting, and exchanges with her coach bubble with teenage frustration. The footage often zooms in on her and her teammates in action on the floor, vault, and beam, emphasising the tension their bodies are under in pursuit of power and perfection. But Olga is elevated by the wider stakes at play. As young minds and hearts are overwhelmed by forces they cannot train into submission, Grappe captures every twitching face and stumbling denial. 

Anastasia Budiashkina’s lead performance is effortlessly magnetic and grounded. Olga is not always wholly likeable – her determination to succeed obfuscates the needs and safety of those around her – and Budiashkina plays into this hot-headedness while capturing subtler confusions under the surface. 

Olga never loses focus on its teenage protagonist’s personal ambitions as it takes in her wider world. As political and humanitarian struggles cannot be neatly excised, the international spotlight on her burns hotter and brighter.



CAST: Anastasia Budiashkina, Caterina Barloggio, Jérôme Martin, Théa Brogli, Alicia Onomor 

DIRECTOR: Elie Grappe

WRITERS: Elie Grappe, Raphaëlle Valbrune-Desplechin

SYNOPSIS: A young Ukrainian gymnast is sent to train in Switzerland to avoid unrest during the 2013 Maidan Uprising, but her mother and best friend draw her away from neutrality.