The documentary style filmmaking of “I, Tonya” recreates interviews with Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) while chronicling the skater’s life leading up to the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan. Though many films utilize a “based on a true story” title card to capitalize on the sensationalism of what follows, “I, Tonya” does the opposite. The opening of the movie warns that the source material interviews were completely contradictory. In fact, further research into the film shows the pair disagreed on absolutely everything, including the basic details of their first date. This note of caution extends further than the biased narrators, a point Tonya herself underscores by saying everyone has their own truth and this is merely hers.
Robbie met the film’s subject only once prior to shooting as she was reluctant to turn the character into a carbon copy of the skater. That said, Robbie does so well in the role that it often feels like watching archival footage.
While many are undoubtedly curious about the Nancy Kerrigan beating, a fact Tonya acknowledges on screen, the actual event goes by quickly. This movie is Tonya’s moment, not Nancy’s. And, whereas that event may seem like the pinnacle of drama, the high-stakes of the movie actually come from the abuse she’s subject to by her mom and husband. In fact, the repeated beatings are so disturbing that this feels like a cautionary tale about domestic violence much of the time.
To find out more about what makes Tonya an imperfect narrator, as well as behind-the-scenes details about incorporating her famous triple axel into the movie, take a look below: