The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - BREAKING THE ICE | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - BREAKING THE ICE

breaking the ice review
An ice hockey player's life is upended by the arrival of her team's new signing.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Clara Stern

Starring: Alina Schaller, Judith Altenberger, Tobias Resch, Pia Hierzegger, Wolfgang Böck

breaking the ice poster

Like Robert Towne's Personal Best and Lauren Hadaway's The Novice, Austrian director Clara Stern's feature debut Breaking the Ice is a lesbian drama wrapped in a sports movie. Or perhaps it's more of a sports movie wrapped in a lesbian drama, as Stern never quite seems as committed to her film's sporting sub-plot as the aforementioned filmmakers were. Sports movies traditionally see their protagonist's arc of self-fulfilment correspond to their rise in their chosen sport, but the two never quite gel here. We care about Breaking the Ice's protagonist's personal issues, but her career on the field never sucks us in.

breaking the ice review

That protagonist is Mira (Alina Schaller), the young captain of a women's ice hockey team. A middling outfit, the team is boosted by the arrival of Theresa (Judith Altenberger), who transfers from one of the league's top teams. Mira finds herself instantly attracted to Theresa, but not wanting her teammates to discover her sexuality, she adopts an abrasive attitude to the newcomer.

Mira and Theresa are thrown together by the arrival of Mira's brother Paul (Tobias Resch), who fled the family three years earlier following some ambiguous row with their mother (Pia Hierzegger). Paul, Mira and Theresa begin spending their nights out clubbing, and while this brings Mira and Theresa closer together, it negatively impacts Mira's performance on the field.

breaking the ice review

Breaking the Ice is most successful when focussed on the dynamic between its two would-be lovers and their will-they-won’t-they anti-romance. Schaller and Altenberger stand out as the shy Mira and the confident Theresa, and the sparks really fly when they're together, regardless of whether they're fighting on the hockey field or warming to one another in nightclubs and bedrooms.

Whenever we cut to a hockey match it feels like a distraction however, as Stern fails to lay out the goals of the team as clearly as the personal ambitions of her protagonist. At one point we're told the next game is the final and we find ourselves scratching our heads as to how this could be the case, given we've watched the team fall apart over the previous 80 minutes.

breaking the ice review

All three of Breaking the Ice's central characters are portrayed as outsiders. For Mira, it's her concealed sexuality. For Theresa it's being the new girl on the team. Paul spends his evenings assuming fake identities in a bid to escape his past. Together, the three find kinship and comfort in each other's company. It's a shame the movie is so uncomfortable at portraying the ice hockey world it seems to have thoughtlessly chosen as a backdrop for its central drama. 

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