As if growing up in Russia isn’t depressing enough, imagine growing up under the shadows of nuclear reactors. It may not directly account for the choices the title character of Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj’s Polina makes, but considering how prominently the radioactive concrete towers are framed in the early scenes, they can’t help. A studious dancer since childhood, teenager Polina (Anastasia Shevtsova) gets accepted to the Bolshoi Ballet, but chooses instead to follow her scruffy French boyfriend Adrien (Niels Schneider) to Paris. This ends about as well as might be expected, and even after studying contemporary dance under the earthy Liria — Juliette Binoche, yay! — Polina soon finds herself homeless in Belgium.
The most interesting sequence is Polina’s descent into Antwerp’s nightlife as she gets a job bussing tables at a nightclub, including an inspired Eat-Sleep-Rave-Repeat-style montage of the grind of her new life. (Though they’re in different cities, it’s still easy to expect the nightcrawlers from Victoria or Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo to pass by in the background.) But Polina the movie doesn’t view this period a mistake, or as a punishment for the Aesop Violation that brought her here, but rather a stepping stone on her individual path. There’s no one way to dance, and there’s no one way to live.
Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.