Stars: Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski
This compelling and empathetic study of social media addiction which also contains thriller elements features a star-making turn from stage actor Magdalena Kolesnik.
She is Sylwia, a thirty-year-old Warsaw fitness guru and social media influencer who has some 600,000 Instagram followers with whom she shares details of her quotidian life; the energy drinks she makes with ingredients by one of her many sponsors and equally mundane stuff.
When her agent manages to land her a morning TV appearance for her, Sylwia’s star seems to be in the ascendant, but the tirelessly positive social image she curates belies a darker story. Sylwia doesn’t have any apparent friends, save for a flirtatious relationship with her hunky assistant Klaudiusz (Swiezewski) who helps her out with her wildly popular routines at shopping malls. Only her cute dog Jackson provides any consistent companionship.
Sylwia’s life starts to unravel further when a teary video she made of her expressing dissatisfaction with her single status makes her sponsors nervous. Then she discovers that she has a stalker who watches her from his car outside her apartment building.
Refreshingly the picture eschews aghast pearl-clutching at social media mores, in favour of complex psychological insight with lead Kolesnik managing to locate the hidden depths beneath Sylwia‘s shallows. As befits its narcissistic character, Sylwia is the constant focus, often captured in intense selfie-style close-ups.
Scenes with Sylwia’s stalker, despite the potentially interesting notion that they may have a lot in common than she would care to admit, are the least successful. More intriguing and mordantly amusing is a sequence at a family dinner for her emotionally distant mother’s birthday where Sylwia grows increasingly resentful of not being the centre of attention. In another remarkable and genuinely surprising scene, Sylwia runs into an old school friend with a tragic story to tell.
Sylwia’s treadmill lifestyle is memorably evoked with frantic editing, pounding Europop soundtrack, and cinemaphotographer Michal Dymek’s insistent rendering of the ersatz world of brightly-lit shopping malls and candy-coloured gym wear.
Sweat is released in cinemas and available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema on 25th June
David WilloughbyFollow David on @DWill_Crackfilm