Ben Oliver

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Banner image for Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
film

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

What am I supposed to be when I grow up?
07 February 2024

A portrait of New York City Ballet’s prima ballerina, who after 30 years with the company is having to come to terms with age and retirement from the ballet.

Not a showy or glossy film at all, Restless Creature thrives on its intimacy with its subject. I don’t know much of the back story of who the filmmakers are, but it’s rare to see someone be so candid on camera about their own life, especially mid-crisis. The odd fumble with the camera and general lack of coherent style are easily forgiven and forgotten because the documentary is very engaging.

It starts with Whelan experiencing pain while dancing, for the first time in her career and shows a hip operation she undergoes to try and rebuild some torn cartilage.

The journey towards her rebuilding is interesting enough but everything changes gear for the last 40 or so minutes and Restless Creature becomes this moving portrait of someone grappling with time, and realising that they can’t quite do what they used to. Whelan is self-aware enough to understand that the end is nigh for her time at the ballet, and she seems to have embraced her future doing more contemporary dance that is easier on the joints, but you can tell that underneath it all she wanted her moment to last just a little longer.