Strong playing by reliable French thesp Jean-Francois Stevenin puts some character muscle into “Strong Shoulders,” a potentially interesting female coming-of-ager centered on a single-minded young Swiss athlete. However, the unlikable main character makes this a difficult pic to engage with emotionally, and docu-like TV look consigns it to European tubes at best.
Sabine Roderer (Louise Szpindel), who lives with her divorced mom, trains ferociously despite having fears that her body will become “masculine.” (No fears there, judging by several nude scenes.) Aggressive toward her long-suffering coach (Stevenin), the scowly Sabine alienates even pals Fatia (Dora Jemaa) and Dani (Nina Meurisse) when she exploits them for her own ends. And her eventual liaison with a male athlete (Guillaume Gouix) ends in a shocking (and rather unbelievable) revelation. Script flirts with ideas like obsessive training and teenage sexual insecurities but fails to develop them. Szpindel is frighteningly effective as the selfish 15-year-old though physically unconvincing as an athlete. Jemaa is striking as one of her friends, but it’s Stevenin as the no-nonsense coach who gives pic a touch of heart.