'Olympic Dreams' Review: A Look At Love In The Olympic Village [SXSW]

While on the phone with her coach, Winter Olympics athlete Penelope (Alexi Pappas) rambles about her training and her hopes for the competition. "I hope that I really feel like an olympian when I'm done," she says with nervous energy.That's the theme of Olympic Dreams in a nutshell: feeling like an olympian means going for the gold, by any means necessary. In both Penelope and Ezra's (Nick Kroll) case, it's their friendship that makes them evaluate what the gold/goal is for them – and how far are they willing to get it. Directed by Jeremy Teicher, the film's exploration of limited time well-spent makes for an unsure, but real, love story.Penelope is a young cross-country skier who befriends Ezra, a volunteer dentist during the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018. They quickly develop a special bond despite their limited time together and their very different backgrounds. They explore the Athlete Village and South Korea together, making memories together and enjoying each other's company.The story itself isn't complex in the slightest. What makes Olympic Dreams engaging is the relationship between Penelope and Ezra. Alexi Pappas isn't new to both acting and athleticism – in real life, she's an long distance runner and olympian. She also wrote the screenplay with director Alexi Pappas and Nick Kroll. Having that creative control shows in her performance: its raw but feels lived-in. Nick Kroll balances her energy in that dorky, earnest way he does so well. His performance in particular is a reminder that he has range beyond comedy. When he wants to sell budding romance, he does it effectively.But what makes this film so special is that it's the first scripted film shot in an Athlete Village during the Olympic Games. In between the relationship brewing between Penelope and Ezra, we get beautiful shots around Athlete Village. It's an insider look, a wonder for people who will never attend the games as an athlete or a spectator. Seeing the spaces where the top competitors eat and relax brings a humanizing lens to these powerhouse people. They're doing more than just representing their country – they have routines, and make friends and party. To have an athlete like Pappas lead the viewers through this sells the reality of it all.Olympic Dreams 's goal isn't to inundate you with complex themes or ideas. Simplicity is key for this film – it all comes down to a man and a woman who want to spend time together and then...spend time together. Layering that with the gorgeous Olympic environment makes for an enjoyable, often mesmerizing watch./Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10