The Norwegian Step-Up
Part drama, part coming of age romance, Norwegian Netflix Original Battle is a charming but largely predictable film. While it may follow the same tried and tested formula other dance movies follow, Battle mixes things up with an empathetic lead and a heartwarming message about the power of dance.
The film opens with dancer Amalie (Lisa Teige) preparing for an upcoming ballet competition, graced with a tight-knit group of friends and her boyfriend, Aksel (Vebjørn Enger). All seems well until Amalie’s life comes crashing down around her, throwing her entire dance career into jeopardy. Her Father is made bankrupt; their luxurious house and most of their belongings are gone, replaced with a run-down apartment with a single bed and a handful of their possessions.
Exasperated and falling behind with her rehearsals, Amalie finds refuge in the nearby youth centre where she happens upon hip hop dancer Mikael (Fabian Svegaard Tapia). The two hit it off instantly and what follows is the predictable conundrum for Amalie as she decides between a future in ballet or hip hop.
For the most part, Battle seems content to revel in its clichéd, predictable story. Lacking the big set-piece driven dancing that other films in this genre have, Battle instead relies on its romance to keep the film ticking over. It’s here where Battle becomes even more clichéd, featuring all the usual tropes you’d expect, including awkward encounters and plenty of internal confliction for Amalie as she decides between the two men in her life.
If it wasn’t for the chemistry between Amalie and Mikael, the entire film’s foundation would crumble. It’s ultimately the way these two characters interact that makes the film such an endearing watch. Unlike Amalie’s boyfriend Aksel, the interactions never feel awkward or stifled and the two naturally work very well together on-screen.
Of course, Battle is still a by-the-numbers teen drama and is unlikely to be the sort of film remembered for years to come. Next to films like Step Up, Honey and numerous other dance films that have stood the test of time, Battle fails to really stand out. Amalie and Mikael are the shining lights here though and they do really well together, with the film’s final dance number bringing everything to a heartwarming, charming place.
If you can go in knowing Battle dances to a predictable number you’ll have fun but those expecting something new and fresh, will be left wanting.