CZECH REPUBLIC: FAIR PLAY
A political drama about sports, or a sports drama about politics? Why not be both, says this film about a teenage track star in 1980s Czechoslovakia, who gets bullied into taking steroids by the government forces that want to show off a whole population of physically gorgeous super-athletes at the 1984 Olympics. The battle being waged over ownership of one’s body and health in a dictatorship is an interesting one, and well presented; lead actress Judit Bárdos is a bit shapeless and superficial in portraying the internal tensions of this conflict, but the film around her has been constructed with enough merciless geometry and clinical coolness that it’s surprisingly able to survive a flat central performance.
Oscar prospects: Eastern European reminiscences about the late Communist period feel like they’re some kind of Oscarbait, but not that many have actually shown up in this category. This is, to be sure, a solid example of the form, and the human interest hook is rock solid. By no means do I expect to see it on the nine-film shortlist, but it’s not going to be a “wait, how did THAT get there?” moment if it manages to do so.