The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - PERFECT 10 | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - PERFECT 10

perfect 10 review
A teenage gymnast discovers she has an older brother, who just happens to be a motorbike thief.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Eva Riley

Starring: Frankie Box, Alfie Deegan, William Ash, Sharlene Whyte, Nicola Wright

perfect 10 poster

The coming of age drama meets the musical meets the sports movie meets the crime caper in Perfect 10, the infectiously charming feature debut from writer/director Eva Riley. Like the recent Days of the Bagnold Summer, it's another tale of familial bonding over a summer in suburban England, this time between a teenage girl and the brother she never knew she had.

perfect 10 review

Bullied teen Leigh (Frankie Box) escapes from the dreariness of her life on England's south coast by focussing on her one great passion - gymnastics. A talented performer/athlete, Leigh was introduced to the sport by her late mother, but in recent months she's begun to lose interest, much to the chagrin of her coach (Sharlene Whyte), who does her best to prepare Leigh for an upcoming competition.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Around the Sun ]

Leigh's world is shaken when she arrives home one afternoon to find a teenage boy in her home. Joe (Alfie Deegan) claims to be her long lost sibling, literally a brother from another mother, a secret her feckless father (William Ash) kept hidden from both Leigh and her mum for two decades. After initially being repelled by the presence of Joe, Leigh begins to warm to the idea of having an older brother and tags along with him to gatherings of local layabouts. Joe makes money stealing motorbikes and petrol for wannabe gangster Reece (Billy Mogford), who inveigles Leigh into his criminal enterprise. Putting her gymnast's litheness to new use, Leigh is soon bouncing over fences and breaking into homes to help her brother steal bikes.

perfect 10 review

On paper, Perfect 10 might sound like it has all the trappings of a grim piece of British social realism, or worse, a moralising "crime doesn't pay" after school special encouraging teenage girls to focus on healthy pursuits like gymnastics rather than getting sucked into a life of crime. But Riley has fashioned one of the feelgood movies of the year, a proper joyous summer romp. There's no moral judgement regarding Leigh and Joe's crimes here, as Riley affords her audience the intelligence to view the movie as a work of teenage fantasy. Of course in reality crime is rarely glamorous, but in movies it can be a lot of fun, and as Joe and Leigh speed away from crime scenes on stolen scramblers, they're experiencing the same exhilaration Burt Reynolds feels as he's being chased down by redneck Sheriffs.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Young Ahmed ]

And that exhilaration is infectious, thanks largely to the incredibly charismatic performances of first time actors Box and Deegan. What a find these two are! Box in particular has all the qualities of a great actor, but that's hardly a rarity in modern British cinema, which introduces us to at least a half dozen talented young actresses every year. What Box also possesses is something else however, that indefinable quality we think of as movie stardom. She has a remarkably natural ability to pull us into her character's plight, and we warm to her from the moment she nervously steps onto a gymnasium floor in the film's opening sequence. When she's feeling down, we feel down along with her, and when she breaks into a smile, usually at the behest of Joe's wisecracks, the screen lights up. We want the best for Leigh, even if she doesn't think she's deserving herself.

perfect 10 review

If the many references to an upcoming competition make you believe you're in for a traditional sports movie narrative, in which an underdog rises to beat the odds, think again. Riley eschews such clichés. For Leigh, taking part is ultimately enough. In the adrenalised gymnastics routine that closes the film, Box convinces us that her character has grown so much in the preceding 80 minutes that we don't even think about how she might fare in any upcoming tournament. She's found joy in the sport she loves, and you'll find much joy in the sparkling delights of this thoroughly likeable movie.

Perfect 10 is in UK/ROI cinemas and on VOD from August 7th.

2020 movie reviews