During the 2022 Winter Olympics the Russian figure skating team faced controversy after a failed drug test. This in turn threatened to expose a dark side of the sport. Over the years competitive gymnasts have found themselves in similar positions, which is where actor Veera W. Vilo got her inspiration to write the movie Free Skate.
Free Skate follows the story of a Russian figure skater (Veera W. Vilo) who, in a quest to be the best, realizes that her team is trying to pimp her out to the team’s sponsors. Her father is well aware of what is going on. And he turns his head the other way and gets money for doing so. She decides that she’s had enough. So the skater runs away to Finland to live with her grandmother (Leena Otila) and start her life anew. It takes time for her to trust again. And just as she starts to rise back to the top, her past comes back to haunt her.
Vilo does an amazing job taking you through the wide range of emotions her character runs through. It’s a compelling performance that sees her go from an innocent trapped in a world that uses and abuses her, to a hurt and betrayed young woman who has a hard time trusting anyone, to a star performer full of confidence who wants to tell the world her story. The film does feel a little unpolished at times, and the director could have done a better job editing out some of the unnecessary scenes, but over all it tells a story that draws you in and doesn’t want to let you go.
As you watch Free Skate you will quickly start to feel like something is missing from the story, especially when it comes to the characters. For instance, for the longest time you see the skater’s dad in the background, working at the ice rink, but there is no indication who he is until much later on. It needed to be more apparent that he was the father, which would have made his inaction more powerful. When you finally figure out who he is, it’s almost too late to have any emotional attachment to him.
The film also doesn’t any of the character names. In doing so, it’s hard to grow attached to anyone other than the skater herself. The flashback narrative was an interesting choice as well, and while it worked, the director needed to find a better way to let the audience know which part of the story they were telling, the past or the present. This is because some of the switches occurred while the main character was skating, which she did in both time periods.
It is debatable as to whether Free Skate ended when it should have. But it’s still a fairly well made movie that will entertain audiences. It tells a very timely story about what young girls and women go through to compete in some sports. It also shows why we need to be looking closer at what goes on in order to stop it. Perhaps by telling stories like this, we will start to do so.
- Genre: Drama
- Directed by: Roope Olenius
- Starring: Jevgeni Haukka, Leena Otila, Veera W. Vilo
- Produced by: Miikka J. Anttila, Roope Olenius, Teea Siltanen, Veera W. Vilo
- Written by: Veera W. Vilo
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