Dancer ★★½

There are two things in making a good documentary. First, you must have a good subject. Second, you must exploit that subject to full effect.

"Dancer" has the first, but doesn't quite hit the second. Sergei Polunin is an incredible dancer, with a grand array of leaps and movements and an aggressive ability to stalk the stage, dominating it. He's also deeply conflicted about his own job - his family sacrificed incredibly to allow him to train at the top level, but while performing at the UK royal ballet he had a mental snap and fled back to eastern Europe. There's drugs, there's confusion, there's a young man trying to figure out what he wants to do when he's been carved very distinctly into being good at this one, physically demanding, thing.

Alas, this is also an authorised film, so it doesn't quite dwell deeply enough into the various issues involved. The drugs in particular are almost skirted over - we don't really know what this meant to his body, or what this meant to his mind, Polunin's declarations that he's quitting dancing feel particularly weird as ... well, he doesn't actually appear to be doing that. The climactic video, shot by David LaChapelle, is an emotional and artistic crescendo, but the follow up as the video gets comments like "inspires me to be a dancer" should feel far more conflicted than they actually do - is bringing more people into a body-breaking profession like this really a good thing?

Still, this does have Polunin's dancing compiled in interesting ways and a broad outline of the issues that his life gives rise to, even if it doesn't, for my taste, cut quite deep enough.