Recently released on Netflix, this Polish drama about Marta (Katarzyna Sawczuk), nicknamed Fierce by those who know her, follows her as she enters a famed singing competition in the hopes of meeting her long absent father Olo (Maciej Zakoscielny), a one hit wonder rock star and member of the judging panel, someone who has pretended she hasn’t existed for years. The synopsis and trailer suggest a light hearted family friendly feature but Fierce is both blunt and unexpected in its plotting, never relying on the crutch of Olo’s and Marta’s relationship, instead making a mockery of fame and reality television and the senseless competition and toxicity of staying on top. It’s in this parody of modern television that Fierce tries to find the right balance between comic parody and serious discussion and at almost every turn, it makes the wrong choice. Not only is every moment of this faux show used as a punchline, it diminishes Marta’s reasons for competing, essentially turning her aspirations into one big punchline.
As a discussion of failing to live up to the right goals in life and constantly listening to expectations of others however, Fierce has legs. Zakoscielny may jump from cartoon villain to concerned parent with gleeful abandon but when he is firmly in the latter camp, Fierce is an ode to the power absentee parents have on their children and the hidden affections that still exist. Sawczuk manages to make Marta wickedly proud and sure of herself despite too little times to really shine outside of the idiotic show she finds herself attached to. Fierce in the end is at its most forgettable and oftentimes unfortunately laughable when it feeds into the story of corrupting fame and shoddy singing it thinks is its main draw. Put Olo and Marta together to work through their issues and act like human beings instead of a sassy comedy act and director Anna Wieczur-Bluszcz’s film finally finds a story worth telling. Its somewhat amusing that for a film with the classic trope of a absentee father, its the one part of the film that isn’t the crutch.