The Perfection (2019)

“We don’t make mistakes here.”

One of the more compassionate movies I’ve seen so far this year, yet every bit as brutal and disturbing as the trailer paints it to be, The Perfection plucks at the sutures of sanity with sharp notes vibrating from tense strings that have been twisted to the point of splitting wildly. It’s an erotic thriller that explores the underbelly of sexuality, a gruesome body horror film with a likeness to 2006’s Bug and Pedro Almodóvar’s masterful 2011 film The Skin I Live In, and The Perfection uses Netflix’s worldwide platform as a resonant voice for a generation of women, uniting and empowering them to stand up against their patriarchal oppressors. It’s a hard film to forget.

Thrillers with twists and turns need to establish the overall tone in the opening scene, which The Perfection does with skill and a dour guise. Charlotte (Allison Williams) looks at her dead Mother and says, “My mother finally passsed away and I’m not needed here anymore.” She’s glad to move on from the chair in the corner of a lifeless room. Once a prodigious cellist, Charlotte ditched her musical dreams to play caretaker, going back to the world of the violin family only to see that she’s been forgotten. In fact, she’s been replaced by Lizzie (Logan Browning), another in a long line of world-class talents taught at the famed school overseen by Anton (Steven Weber) and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman).

What’s so clever about The Perfection is how the secretive story not only subverts our expectations, but that it also has the patience to retrace its steps and show us how we truthfully got from point A to point B. The explanations can be a bit overkill, and a little predictable early on, but are nonetheless rewarding. So as the movie brings Charlotte and Lizzie together as acquaintances, then as friends, then finally as lovers after a night of drunken clubbing, The Perfection builds a rocky and rewarding relationship with the ability to keep us guessing up until the truly unforgettable shocking final shot. The tragedy and the timeliness of the symbolism left me in awe.

Perhaps the most central theme in The Perfection is the power of regenerated or even newfound autonomy. Charlotte and Lizzie are ruled by music, family, critics and teachers. They’re expected to be thoroughly perfect, to perform without fault, to suffer the harsh consequences for every single missed note while up on stage. And with the devoted performances from actresses Williams and Browning, director Richard Shepard pulls off a balancing act of a film fueled by vengeance and driven by the optimistic outlook towards actualizing the concept of self-governance. In an era of regressive policy making and where influential men wield power as predators, The Perfection gives women rightful control over their scarred bodies, and literally forces men to sit down, to shut up and to listen whether they like it or not. You might not like the movie, but I guarantee you’ll hear and feel its symphony of pain and perseverance. The ending will forever be seared into my mind.

“Do not discard me.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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