Film Reviews

Review: ‘Over the Limit’

Hot Docs 2018


Over the Limit
(Poland, Germany, Finland, 74 minutes)
Dir: Marta Prus
Programme: World Showcase. (North American Premiere)

When asked about her personal goals, Russian rhythmic gymnast Margarita Mamun responds by saying, “We should push past our limits.” Throughout the film Mamun’s goal is met, over and over, as she practices and performs her routines amidst a grueling training schedule, family emergencies, injury, and the constant verbal berating by coaches.

Over the Limit, in its repetition, can become dull. We watch Mamun dance, with grace, beauty, and strength that seem almost inhuman. And then we watch as her coaches tell her how bad she was, how she will never amount to anything—showing the disappointment they feel at her failure. Mamun, every time, responds with a blank expression, save for a quivering lip, which betrays her emotions. Over the course of the film, we become too accustomed to this pattern, with Mamun’s dances becoming artistic interludes to the film’s “drama.”

Ultimately, the most interesting thing about the documentary isn’t its capturing of the hard life of the athlete, but the question it poses of why we do the things we do. Throughout the film, Mamun seems to be in a state of fear and uncertainty, hurting herself physically and emotionally. She performs beautifully, only to be told she’s no good. And so we can ask, why continue in this profession for so long, competing in this sport that seems to offer no benefits?

Over the Limit is a film about passion and art. It is a film about what drives us, beyond logic and comfort. For Mamun, she tells us it’s to go beyond her limits. And hopefully, that is what she achieved. Despite the constant insults her performances garner in Prus’ documentary, Mamun would go on to win gold at the Olympics before finally retiring. An exploration of one woman’s ambition, Over the Limit goes beyond its simple narrative in its psychological questions.

Over the Limit screens:
-Sat, Apr. 28 at 8:45 PM at TIFF Lightbox
-Sun, Apr. 29 at 3:15 PM TIFF Lightbox
-Sun, May 6 at 9:15 PM at TIFF Lightbox

Hot Docs runs April 26 to May 6. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more info.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!