If you’re a lover of music and movies with psychological twists and turns, The Perfection should be on your watch list. This latest compelling thriller on Netflix is guaranteed to make for an interesting, and, at times, bewildering movie night.
The Perfection is a tough film to write about, as there are so many plot twists – and even the occasional bold genre leap – that could become potential spoilers if discussed in too much detail. It ventures bravely, and unnervingly, into the realm of pure horror before settling back into the psychological thriller domain that it promised.
The plot is centred around a former musical prodigy (played by Allison Williams) who returns to the music scene after the death of her mother to seek out the new star pupil of her former music academy (played by Logan Browning). The two young women immediately connect, and so begins their increasingly dark and sinister path as lovers and as rivals – although when they’re which is hard to tell.
The cellists find themselves in a hotel room in Beijing, in the back of a rundown bus travelling through the Chinese countryside, and then alone in the mountains – a landscape which soon becomes a gory, disturbing nightmare – before the story throws us back in the apparently peaceful and ordered world of their music school in America.
This glossy world of the upper-crust and the musical elite is soon overshadowed and torn open by the aftermath of what happened on that Chinese mountain side. We as viewers are drawn into not a horror, but a complex tale of revenge, in which nobody is what they seem to be.
Needless to day, the viewer is left purposefully perplexed for much of the film, but The Perfection uses an interesting technique of “rewinding itself” to fill in the blanks and how us scened from the past from different perspectives. According to Sheila O’Malley, “the pedestrian “rewind” gimmick outstays its welcome, but there’s enough B-movie madness—gore and screams and violence and sex—to make up for it”.
This B-movie quality – the blood, the raciness, the startling violence and messy rage – seems to clash loudly with the context in which it’s placed. The precision of the musicians, the polished instruments, the tailored suits but it becomes a part of the film’s charm.
The Perfection has, however, received negative reviews for using sexual abuse and rape as prominent plot points which enter the story without warning, and which may trigger viewers who were seeking out that B-movie experience, and not a tale of trauma. For trauma is essentially what this whole story revolves around. O’Malley writes that the film’s use of sexual abuse is “shorthand is lazy, and handled in such a way here that [she] recoiled from it, and from the film itself”.
The leading actors give a good performance and work well together. They take on their roles in this twisted plot with gusto and leave the viewer pretty convinced of their rage and at times less convinced of their sanity.
Many of the visuals too are exceptionally well thought out and executed. The aftermath of the violence is almost more visible than the violence itself, which allows the viewer to use their imagination to fill in the gruesome blanks. Writing for Vulture, Jordan Crucchiola says “you think you’ve actually seen more gore than was ever really presented to you, leaving you utterly unprepared — and perversely pleased”.
It’s a twisted, glossy, bloody, orchestral, and chaotic construction of clashing images and tunnels that don’t come out where you’d expect. All in all, the Perfection is incredibly watchable – even if, at times, you’ll be watching through your fingers.