Valery Todorovsky’s sprawling story of a poor mining-town girl who makes it into the legendary Bolshoi Ballet has the gloss of a TV movie.
But what takes it to a higher level is its refusal to stick to fairy-tale plotting, its access to the elaborate theatre itself, and, most of all, its lead, Julia. Played by a real—yet never clichéd—ballet dancer, the graceful but Shelley Duvall–gawky Margarita Simonova, Julia is an oddball mix of mischief and iron will. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from her as the story line dances deftly between her hardscrabble upbringing and her struggles coming of age and competing with her rich rival Karin at the ballet. For a movie as weightless as its flawless grands jetés, it also dares to expose the growing economic and social gaps in Russia.More