Perfect 10 review: An accomplished coming-of-age drama
Ivan Radford | On 07, Aug 2020
Director: Eva Riley
Cast: Frankie Box, Alfie Deegan
Watch Perfect 10 online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
First-time director Eva Riley makes an assured debut with this understated portrait of a teenager trying to find her way through growing up, growing close to others and growing confident in her own talents.
Frankie Box plays Leigh, a 14-year-old gymnast who lives near Brighton and spends her days training for an upcoming contest. She brings a chip on her shoulder when she steps on to the mat, an outsider among the the other dances thanks to her second-hand leotard and still coming to terms with her own past baggage. But she channels all that frustration into work, plugging away with a gritty determination that’s immediately endearing.
All her preparation, though, is thrown off balance when a half-brother she didn’t know she had arrives at her house one evening. Joe (Alfie Deegan) came out of his dad’s previous relationship and brings with him the allure – and income – of criminal activities, having learnt to make his own way with no support from his father.
As Leigh gets drawn into that world, the tension ramps up, bringing physical and emotional stakes to the drama. Underpinning every interaction between them is a remarkably genuine chemistry that sparks with sibling affection. They both have an instinct to protect each other as well as a longing to latch on to a shared sense of belonging; as the fearless Leigh gets close to Joe’s supposed friends, he gets more resentful but also more vulnerable, and the way that Box and Deegan circle round each other’s growing pains carries a wonderfully sincere weight.
It’s hard to believe that both are newcomers (Box is a real-life gymnast), but that’s part of Eva Riley’s achievement. Somewhere between Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach, she draws convincing, rounded performances from these non-professionals with understated intimacy. She follows her leads with a flowing, graceful agility, all shallow depth of field and intimate sound design. This is a moving coming-of-age story that quivers with potential and promise. Expect to hear more from all three of these talents in the future.
Perfect 10 is available on BBC iPlayer until 7th November 2021.