We’ve all had aspirations as teenagers as to where we want to take our lives and what we would like to accomplish, whether inventing something world-changing, following our passion in arts and culture, joining the armed forces, and such or, indeed, taking up our favourite sport as a job. Such things, however, don’t come either for free or easy and sacrifices are certain to be asked for especially in the face of insurmountable odds. Such dreams and the struggles therein are the focus of writer/director Eva Riley’s sunny, lush, Brighton-set coming-of-age tale that is a real as it is delightful.
Perfect 10 tells the story of precocious teenager Leigh (a barnstorming debut from Frankie Box) who is desperate to learn the craft of gymnastics but with short attention spans and a fragile home life, she is finding it hard to balance her life and herself in a way becoming that of a junior gymnast. Her fractious relationship with her bystander father could erupt at any time and despite her dreams, she nor her father have the means to help support her aspirations. Then one sunny Brighton day, an unannounced guest strolls into her house claiming to be her step-brother Joe (Alfie Deegan) and soon Leigh finds herself helping him in his feckless lifestyle of crime and misdemeanours, lured by the release and sense of friendship it provides away from the pains of the rest of her life.
As directorial debuts go, Eva Riley’s is as impressive as they come with an assured hand and dexterity behind the camera that makes Perfect 10 a pretty insatiable delight even if this a path well walked before. Obvious comparisons have been made between Riley’s style and that of Andrea Arnold, a huge compliment if ever there was one but while there are echoes of Fish Tank here, Riley riffs off the motifs and themes in such a distinctive way that to just compare and contrast seems a little too easy.
Led by Box’s sensational debut – plucked from gymnastics schools as the perfect lead – the film is at turns heartbreakingly sad and achingly real, dealing with isolation, teenage angst, conformity and the struggles of modern-day pressures of being noticed all looked at thoughtfully and with a real purpose even if they don’t all quite come together. Box, along with Deegan, light up the screen with their relationship and they are destined for special things after this, as is their superlative director who showcases a unique vibrancy and storytelling knack that makes her one to watch.
Drama | UK, 2019 | 15 | Digital Download, Cinema | 7th August 2020 (UK) | 606 Distribution | Dir.Eva Riley | Frankie Box, Alfie Deegan, Sharlene Whyte, William Ash