Film Review: I, Tonya is an exhilarating and gripping biopic

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Picture: ENTERTAINMENT ONE

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Picture: ENTERTAINMENT ONE - Credit: Entertainment One

On the 6th January 1994 sports fans were gripped by the attack on American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan and the possible involvement of competitor Tonya Harding.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Picture: ENTERTAINMENT ONE

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. Picture: ENTERTAINMENT ONE - Credit: Entertainment One

Though she went on to compete in that year’s Olympics in Lillehammer, Harding later pleaded guilty for conspiring to hinder prosecution and was banned from participating in all future competitions.

It is Harding’s rise and fall that is the focus of filmmaker Craig Gillespie’s latest feature.

As the titular figure skating champion Margot Robbie is superb, making the audience both cheer at Tonya’s unwavering determination to succeed and recoil at her vitriolic outbursts when she achieves anything less than perfection.

Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan are every bit her equal as Harding’s monstrous mother LaVona Fey Golden and abusive husband Jeff Gillooly who use their ‘love’ for Harding to justify their atrocious behaviour to her and to others.

Nicolas Karakatsanis’ cinematography is also spellbinding. Aided by Tatiana S. Riegel’s, sharp, fast-paced editing he expertly captures the excitement and impending sense of doom of Tonya’s life both in and outside the rink.

Yet for all these stylistic flourishes Gillespie, with screenwriter Steve Jones’ disturbing, darkly humorous script, is careful to remind us that, while not entirely innocent, Harding was not the perpetrator of the infamous attack and that her vilification by the press and public was unfair.

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Powered by strong camera-work and Robbie’s outstanding central turn I, Tonya is an exhilarating and gripping biopic.

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