THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘Rise’ Review: Step, Repeat, Recover
June 1, 2023
The French filmmaker Cédric Klapisch’s feel-good dance film follows a professional ballerina returning to the stage after an ankle injury.
The amiable dance film “Rise” begins with a wordless sequence backstage at a Parisian ballet performance. The 26-year-old soloist, Elise (Marion Barbeau), is readying for her grand entrance when she spots her boyfriend furtively smooching a fellow company member. Distraught and preoccupied, Elise jams her ankle during a jeté, causing an injury that could require surgery.
The remainder of “Rise,” directed by Cédric Klapisch, traces Elise’s lengthy but rather untroubled road to recovery, both of body and of confidence. Much of this coming-of-age work occurs at a picturesque artists’ retreat in a seaside villa where Elise, limping but breezy, accepts a job preparing meals. And what luck that her cooking gig should coincide with the residency of an esteemed contemporary dance troupe — one that includes a break dancing hunk, Mehdi (Mehdi Baki), who Elise had admired back home.
This is a sweet, uncomplicated story relayed with enough entrancing dance breaks to fill an American halftime show. In her acting debut, Barbeau, a professional ballerina at the Paris Opera Ballet, is mesmerizing in motion, and her training is obvious; she points her toes even while jogging. Some of the movie’s themes feel labored, such as a drawn-out discourse comparing the rigidity of ballet to the freedom of modern choreography. It drives home a point we already intuit: the dialogue is incidental when the dancing is this expressive.