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sweat review
A fitness influencer begins to question her happiness.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Magnus von Horn

Starring: Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski

sweat poster

It's become something of a cliché to suggest that the rich and famous might be miserable underneath their external peppy facades. Is this a way for the rest of us to feel a little better about our own lives or are the beautiful people really sharing our struggles to find happiness? What does fame even mean in this era of Instagram "influencers", who can amass millions of followers and earn large sums just by wearing a sponsored bra in the right suggestive shot?

sweat review

Sylwia (a striking debut by Magdalena Koleśnik), the spandex clad protagonist of Swedish writer/director Magnus von Horn's Polish set drama Sweat, is one such influencer. She's amassed a following of 600,000 on what I believe the kids call "the 'gram" and earns a comfy living visiting shopping malls for meet and greet workout sessions with her adoring fans, and from being photographed eating and wearing the product of certain brands.


But in this Network for the social media age, Sylwia is sad as hell, and she's not sure if she can take it anymore. Dropping her bubbly exterior for once, Sylwia uploads a teary video in which she confesses to her loneliness and inability to find love. While many of her fans feel inspired by her candidness, some sponsors are irked - they wish to be associated with Sylwia's image, not her warts and all reality.

sweat review

When Sylwia discovers she has a stalker, a middle-aged man who masturbates in his car outside her apartment block, she begins to question how she's really viewed. Do her "fans" really care about her or is she simply being objectified, a living motivational poster for women and little more than wank material for men?


Von Horn doesn't make his heroine all that easy to warm to. So skilled at building an image is Sylwia that we're never sure of the level of her sincerity. Is her teary confessional genuine and from the heart or simply a rehearsed marketing ploy? Bumping into an old school friend at a shopping mall, Sylwia is forced to listen to a tale of woe, and it's difficult to read her reaction, to determine whether she's genuinely interested in this woman's troubles or she simply knows how to appear as a caring person. At a family gathering for her mother's birthday, Sylwia storms off in a huff when the assembled family members fail to show a high enough level of interest in her career.

sweat review

Like his 2015 feature debut The Here After - in which a young man is released from prison and returned to the small community where he committed his crime - Sweat becomes concerned with the idea of rehabilitation and forgiveness. Understandably initially dismissing her stalker as a pervert, a late incidence of violence makes Sylwia reassess her view of the Darwinian world whose summit she's risen to. Von Horn seems to suggest that social media has returned us to a less civilised state, where alphas look down on the weak and pathetic. But as his protagonist is ultimately forced to admit, "Weak and pathetic people are the most beautiful of all." Whether she actually believes her own words isn't entirely clear however, and as the film closes on an extended close-up of Sylwia as she performs her trademark workout, we're left to wonder if her experiences have taught her any human lessons or simply given her fuel for her tailored online existence.

Sweat
 is on MUBI UK now.



2021 movie reviews