Movie Review: Polish Exercise Influencer learns the perils of never letting them see you “Sweat”

Sylwia Zając, by any reasonable measure of this cliche, appears to “have it all.”

She is young, beautiful, blonde and famous. And thanks to her choice of career, she’s insanely fit.

That career — as an exercise guru and social influencer — means products are given to her to endorse, so she gets mountains of free stuff and is paid for using it. She is a Polish celebrity, largely self-made, a one-woman social media “brand” (“Sweat”) on the rise.

But there’s “a dark side” to this, Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik) hints in her more private moments, as if she has many of those. She’s practically living her live via vlog posts and selfies.

Her off-camera workouts, getting in shape to lead her smiling, affirmation-filled exercise classes in malls, on TV or wherever, are brutal. She may preach “Work with the body you have, not the one you want,” but the one she “has” she pushes until she’s in near-agony.

It’s a cutthroat business, where every TV morning show booking is fought over, every appearance fraught with brand-damaging dangers.

She’s lonely, has no one to really confide in. Even the mother (Aleksandra Konieczna) she spoils with pricey birthday gifts lets her down, lets her see that she doesn’t approve of her daughter’s “job” or sympathize with her problems.

And she could use a confidante, a mother to cry to. Because she’s just figured out she has a stalker.

Writer-director Magnus von Horn (“The Here After”) dances around the edges of melodrama in “Sweat’s” story of the downside of Internet fame. We get a sense of Sylwia’s isolation, with only her Jack Russell and her online “loves” for company. We see her vulnerability and maybe fear for her safety.

But von Horn isn’t inclined to follow that pervert-in-a-Volvo-wagon threat down a predictable path. He’s more interested in what all this is costing Sylwia, her self-aware acceptance that she could “shut down my Instagram” account (in Polish, with English subtitles) and “no one would really miss me.”

The perfectly made-up blue eyes, stunning exercise ensembles and pasted-on smile may prep her for “work,” which includes simple random encounters with fans. But it leaves her alone, unsocialized, with only B-movie ideas of how one deals with a stalker.

Kolesnik’s performance is perfectly superficial, but she gives us an idea that Sylwia understands the illusion any stalker, including hers, lives with. She knows she’s entirely too “perfect” to be real.

There’s not much more to “Sweat” than that, a perfectly-toned prime specimen of Western standards of beauty seeing that there’s not much more to this life than the superficial one she creates for her “followers,” whom she calls “My loves.”

Coming to a too-obvious conclusion aside, if there’s a better minimalist parable for “living on line,” I’m hard pressed to think of it.

MPA Rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations

Cast: Magdalena Kolesnik, Aleksandra Konieczna and Julian Swiezewski

Credits: Scripted and directed by Magnus von Horn. A MUBI release.

Running time: 1:47

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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