Lukasz Grzegorzek’s A Coach’s Daughter is an interestingly downbeat movie, veering away from the big scenes and obvious crises that other films with the same idea might have given you, and yet somehow serving them up in different forms. It’s about the intense and borderline inappropriate relationship between a middle-aged tennis coach, Maciej (Jacek Braciak) and his teenage daughter Wiktoria (Karolina Bruchnicka), who is a budding tennis star. He is driving her all over Poland, where they are competing in summer regional tournaments, and hoping for glory; they share hotel rooms and lounge around together in intimate states of undress like a couple, but appear utterly focused on Wiktoria’s training and fitness.
On the road they meet Igor (Bartlomiej Kowalski), a bright young teen male star of this tatty circuit, and Maciej offers to let him tag along and to coach him. Clearly, some sort of emotional betrayal is in the offing, especially as Wiktoria and Igor make a rather handsome couple; there is a real chemistry between them, and Wiktoria could well be sick of this monomaniacal discipline. But Maciej has his own secrets and his own emotional needs. Could it be that it he is going to transfer his passion and quasi-parental concern to Igor, the son he never had, and someone who might actually have a better shot at Wimbledon than Wiktoria?
A Hollywood version of the same idea might have had both Igor and Wiktoria each building up to a big match and confronting parallel crises; this isn’t what happens here and it’s notable how Grzegorzek skates over the drama of what happens on court. And a different type of movie might have addressed the audience’s unease about the possibly transgressive relationship of Maciej and Wiktoria, but this film coolly declines to let things go that way. A Coach’s Daughter finds its low-key way of controlling the drama.