11 March, 2014

Macon Review: Bittersweet (****½)

Diana Prazak and Lucia Rijker star in "Bittersweet"

Motivated by pure ambition and fueled by a fierce desire to win, Diana Prazak accepts the invitation from the world’s reigning number one WBC World Champion Boxer, Frida Wallberg, to face off for the title. “Bittersweet” follows Diana’s grueling journey and her intense uphill battle in the attempt to claim the ultimate prize.

Diana Prazak, a proud Australian now living in Los Angeles, is tough. Never taking her eye off the prize, she fights daily to maintain both her physical and mental health. Her trainer, six-time world champion Lucia Rijker, is clearly one of the best in the business. At first glance, she’s intimidating, but her focus and knowledge of the sport is completely mesmerizing. Her caring nature and the gentleness she has towards Diana kept me transfixed.

Director Marieke Niestadt uses a brilliant hook at the beginning of the film that hints at the result of the fight in the film’s final act. The sense of dread that looms throughout is nerve-wracking and indicative of what Diana must have been feeling. Diana’s vulnerabilities and her attempt to cover them up makes her all the more endearing. She doesn’t want to be seen as weak and her fear of losing eats away at her day after day.

The relationship the two characters share is what makes “Bittersweet” such a powerful piece of work. Niestadt throws us into the middle of this complicated trainer-fighter relationship, creating a personal and intimate experience. The highlight of the film is its ability to showcase the extreme highs and lows of the sport. In one moment, Diana can feel strong, motivated and confident, just to be brought back down a few hours later by a number on a scale. The emotional toll that the fight preparation takes on Diana is apparent and—by the end—a fraction of which is shared by the audience.

I was shocked at how invested I was by the time the final fight rolled around. As Diana prepares to enter the ring, and face off against the best in the world, her self-doubt is crushing. The last 15 minutes of “Bittersweet” hits you with such force, you might feel like a WBC boxer yourself.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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