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(15) 108mins

Director: Darren Oronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

ORONOFSKY’S follow up to The Wrestler has drawn some pretty extreme points of view. While some have claimed it is a masterpiece, others have found it derivative in style.

What surely cannot be argued is that Portman produces an amazing performance, giving the audience just about every emotion possible and holding the whole film together.

She plays ballerina Nina Sayers who faces her biggest role as the lead in Swan Lake.

But, while the White Swan part is perfect for her emotionally, she has to find passion and a dark side in order to become the Black Swan.

To complicate matters, her mother (a great performance from Hershey) almost wraps her daughter in cotton wool and is desperate to see her succeed.

Then there is the new dancer Lily (Kunis) - is she really friendly or just trying to take the ballet’s lead role away.

Throw into the mix the former top dancer, played by Winona Ryder, who is dejected and angry at being ‘retired’.

Oronofsky uses a variety of cinematic effects to bring out the viewer’s emotions - some work and some don’t.

Ones that do are use of a hand held camera to get in close to the dancers, plus some scary shots that really rack up the tension. Never has cutting finger nails been so... well nail-biting.

However, there are some scenes that seem more in keeping with one of David Cronenberg’s surreal movies and for me just took the edge off the film.

It was a bit like being batted over the head which was in contrast to the rest of the film’s subtleties

There is plenty of passion and the sex scenes might make you question the 15 rating, but they are very relevant to the story.

I’ve no doubt that Portman will pick up a hatful of awards for her performance and it’s certainly worth watching to see someone at the top of their game.

four out of five stars

Steve Payne

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley