Film Review: Perfect 10

Five stars for a pretty perfect coming of age drama


In her debut feature Perfect 10, Scottish director Eva Riley has made an impressively well observed coming of age story starring  newcomer Frankie Box as a troubled teenage gymnast. Written by Riley, this handsomely acted social drama not only presents an alternative to the usual gritty narratives, but also manages to do it with a great deal of insight and attention to detail.

Fifteen year old Leigh (an arresting debut from Box) is a gymnast focused on her first competition as part of an all girls squad. The teenager’s life is turned upside down when Joe (Alfie Deegan), the half brother she didn’t know existed, comes to stay with her and her father (played beautifully by prolific TV actor William Ash). Despite constant encouragement from her coach Gemma (Sharlene Whyte), Leigh has struggled to fit in with the other girls in the squad who have been bullying her for some time.

Leigh is soon caught up in an underground world of crime, stolen mopeds and late night parties with her brother and his unsavoury group of friends. Finding excitement and the attention she desperately craved, the teenager finds herself at a crossroads between continuing her career in competitive gymnastics and an exciting new world.

Elevated by Steven Cameron Ferguson’s gorgeously evocative cinematography and Riley’s masterful observational style, Perfect 10 manages to be both socially aware and undeniably engaging. With hints of early Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank), the film manages to successfully delve into teenage lives and the angst that comes from growing up in a small town.

Riley broaches the seductive nature of delinquency and crime without a hint of judgement or cliched preconceived ideas. She does this by trusting her own instinct all the while forgoing the usual pitfalls of social dramas which more often than not tend to descend into a tiresome moralising a tone.

While there might be artifice in abundance here, Riley’s film also manages to set itself apart from predicable coming-of-age mainstream narratives and contrived teen dramas. It does this by deliberately adhering to a naturalistic and commendably stripped down aesthetic.

This a beautiful told and handsomely acted character study which never feels far-fetched or jarringly laboured. While this might sound like a story we’ve seen or heard a million times before, Perfect 10 manages to feel fresh and timely despite its undeniably familiar narrative arc.

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