Olga

Olga is a Ukrainian teenage gymnast training for the Olympics. Because her father was Swiss, she has the opportunity to go and train in Switzerland, but it will mean competing for their team instead of Ukraine’s.

The film is set during the 2014 Euromaidan protests. Now, we didn’t pay much attention to that here, because we didn’t know it was gonna be part of a series of events that would end with Russia invasion. Long story short, the pro-Russian President Yanukovich’s popularity had waned because he ran a government rife with corruption, which seemed to be draining billions out the state, and which was horrendous with human rights abuses. He was widely accused of being nothing more than a puppet for Putin. Then Yanukovich refused to sign a political agreement with the EU, effectively bringing Ukraine’s membership efforts to a halt.

Shit blows up. People take to the streets. They occupy the main square in Kyiv in protest. The police, the military, everybody attacks them, but they last it out and Yanukovich flees the country, and the new government basically cleans house. (That’s the good news. The bad news is Yanukovich basically runs greeting to Putin and it becomes a pretext for the 2014 Russian invasion, but that’s a story for another time).

Anyway, the TLDR is the film is set during a revolution for the good in Ukraine. When the film starts, Olga’s just 15 and focused only on getting to the Olympics. Her mum, though, is a journalist. She has the same single-mindedness as Olga, working on stories about corruption and criticising Yanukovich. Olga and her mother’s interactions frequently spark friction as both have all-consuming obsessions, but underneath she is really proud of her mum, and they love each other very much. There’s a lot of support there, going both ways.

In an early scene, someone tries to run Olga’s mum off the road, while Olga is in the passenger seat. Suddenly now seems like a good time to get out of dodge. Olga is packed off to Switzerland, where she has entry to the Swiss national team, on account of her father. They have superior equipment, but there’s no camaraderie, and Olga struggles to make friends. Her rusty French is one reason, but mostly they just view her as one more person they have to compete against.

Isolated, under the strain of daily demanding practice, when the Euromaidan protests start up, it seems like more than one person can bear. Her mother is right in the fray covering the story, and her pal takes to the barricades to help. She is constantly worried about what is happening at home.

In signing up for the Swiss team, she will effectively be signing away her Ukrainian citizenship. Is that something she is willing to do, on top of all else? And how can she possibly keep her head straight for a competition when all this is going on?