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Perfect 10 review - a small movie with a big heart | reviews, news & interviews

Perfect 10 review - a small movie with a big heart

Perfect 10 review - a small movie with a big heart

Eva Riley's debut feature is by turns sentimental and spiky

Family values: Frankie Box and Alfie Deegan in 'Perfect 10'

We first see Leigh (Frankie Box), the cheeky heroine of Scottish writer-director Eva Riley’s debut feature Perfect 10, hanging upside down during a gymnastics workout.

We first see Leigh (Frankie Box), the cheeky heroine of Scottish writer-director Eva Riley’s debut feature Perfect 10, hanging upside down during a gymnastics workout. The image is appropriate given that the teenager’s Sussex life – an aimless routine given what vague shape it has by her athletic interests – is about to be turned upside down by the unexpected arrival in her midst of an older half-brother, Joe (Alfie Deegan), whom she’s not known before.

What transpires is a tale that locates real sweetness within the sullen as the duo form a bond, however shortlived, that takes them both by surprise. Leigh gets drawn into Joe’s world of petty crime and catches the eye of that all-male group’s threatening ringleader, Reece (Billy Mogford, making a sizable impression in a small role). The pair’s father (William Ash) registers as little more than a feckless nonentity.Frankie Box as Leigh in 'Perfect 10'Some of the writing belabours the characters’ psychology, and the rough-and-ready feel of Riley’s filmmaking can’t disguise a sentimental core: the motherless Leigh conveniently finds a surrogate mum in her understanding gym coach Gemma (a likable Sharlene Whyte), who realises by the final reel that Leigh needs defending against a female gaggle of trainee gymnasts on apparent loan from Mean Girls. Joe's sudden emergence, meanwhile, happens by authorial fiat, and it takes a while for his presence within the plot not to feel like a contrivance.

Once the central camaraderie between these wary half-siblings takes hold, the film is off and running, both young leads beautifully demarcating that tricky adolescent terrain whereby standoffishness gives way to intimacy and back again. (Two "acting mentors" are listed in the credits.) Her eyes narrowing with anger or suspicion, Box conveys a child-woman at odds with her own emotions, who wants to shut off feeling on the one hand and yearns for connection on the other. The scene in which she reaches out towards a sleeping Joe at the risk of ruining the rapport they've by then developed rings entirely true, Leigh's lippy facade couching someone in need of protection, admiration, love.

Deegan, in turn, must walk a tricky path between the bravura masculinity that goes with the life of thievery he has for the moment accepted and burgeoning affection for this cheeky distaff newcomer in his life. The sensitivity beneath the pair's apparent toughness is evident at every turn, and the bittersweet ending feels right for a movie that may not be perfect but nonetheless should be seen. 

Both young leads beautifully demarcate that tricky adolescent terrain whereby standoffishness gives way to intimacy

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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