Showpony

Director : Liza Mandelup

We’re taught from a very young age that our best is all we can give. Sometimes though, our best just isn’t good enough. It’s a bitter pill to swallow and, more often than not, it is dealt without guidance, leaving us open to a whole raft of side effects we must learn to battle alone. It’s a process Ashley Wagner knows well. In 2017, Wagner, one of the most decorated figure skaters of our time, took to the ice to qualify for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. But she didn’t qualify. She didn’t win, she didn’t lose, instead she came fourth. She was named the alternate, the plan B. Wagner’s response to her loss became national news, her visible anger at the result prompted a slew of articles and interviews calling her a poor sport, demanding more grace, probing her to deliver an apology, to retract or rewrite her initial reaction. Showpony is her story. Against a backdrop of dreamy frames that follow Wagner around her natural habitat, she recalls, not only that moment of crushing disappointment, but the 22 years of dedication that led to it, the passion that is needed to override the repetition and the level of obsession required to survive a sometimes unrequited love. In spite of operating in a sport that requires a certain level of primness and properness, in an industry that holds holds her and her contemporaries to a standard not required of their male counterparts, she speaks frankly and honestly. She is poised and articulate, unafraid to expose her flaws and vulnerability. For all its beauty (and Showpony is beautiful) the film is ultimately and refreshingly about an unabashedly competitive woman. A woman who competes day in, day out, to be the best she can be. It is a film about success, failure and the strength of character needed to pick up the pieces when things don’t go as planned, when dreams don’t come true, when your resilience proves to be better than your best.

Ami Guest