The Perfection movie review: Allison Williams, Logan Browning's performances elevate this Netflix horror-thriller
Richard Shepard’s The Perfection is a grim tale of horror, deceit, revenge and retribution, all shrouded in a thin veil of mystery and suspense.
Richard Shepard’s The Perfection is a highly unusual movie that keeps moving across the borders of multiple genres. This is a film that is part horror, part thriller, part mystery and part revenge movie, and yet, it never seems as if the film is doing justice to any of the themes it dabbles with. The fact that the makers were able to pull off this seemingly impossible feat successfully is all because of the writing (Shepard with Nicole Snyder and Eric C. Charmelo), and thanks to the brilliant performances of the film’s lead cast.
The film tells the story of Charlotte Willmore – a gifted cellist who was forced to leave a promising career of music at the prestigious Bachoff Academy in Boston under the tutelage of a caring music teacher duo of Anton and Paloma, when her mother was taken seriously ill. Charlotte cared for her mother for years, till she finally passed away. Following her mother's death, Charlotte expresses her desire to return to Bachoff, only to find that her former mentors now have a new star protégé – Lizzie. Seemingly envious of the new girl who has taken her place, Willmore befriends her with an ulterior motive that is as dark as the past she has been unable to forget.
Shepard’s film works because it unravels the many folds of its mysteries one by one, as if you were peeling the many layers of an onion. At every single turn, there is a shocking truth awaiting you, and nothing is as it seems. Shepard was inspired to make the film based on a real life incident involving the Church, but talking too much about it would be giving away crucial plot points. All I can say is that this is a film which does not believe in taking prisoners. It is brutal, unforgiving and will poke you in the eyes, should you choose to willfully shut them for fear of witnessing the truth. It is also a film that will make you think.
In many ways, the film is Hitchcockian, because it does not dwell on its mysteries for too long, and chooses to live in the tension of having revealed them entirely before us. The suspense, therefore, is not of not knowing what is about to happen, but in how things are going to go down. Skilfully written, and beautifully executed, the film uses the holy echelons of music as a platform for a brutal crime. There are glimpses of Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky and Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, although the film has its own true identity that sets it apart.
Allison Williams, who awed us with her flawless performance in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, stars as the protagonist of the film – the psychologically fragile Charlotte, who has lost everything in life due to her mother’s debilitating disease. Years of pent up tension and trauma explode when she sees her rightful place being occupied by another girl. And yet, she remains calm on the surface, planning her moves carefully. Joining her in the film’s terrific cast is Logan Browning, as Lizzie, the girl who was fortunate enough to get a walkthrough to the coveted throne just because someone more talented than her had to walk out. Browning is fantastic in parts, although she does seem to lose her tempo in the film’s first half. Steven Weber plays the role of Anton, the head of Bachoff Academy, who has the much-revered reputation of scouting for talent in far flung places and then giving them the opportunity to have a place amidst the stars. Weber executes his role to perfection, not once missing a beat.
And yet, there is something that just does not seem right in The Perfection. As paradoxical as that may sound, there are at least two plot points which come across as rather unconvincing (or unnecessary, perhaps both). I am afraid I cannot talk about these in this review, but you will identify them as soon as you have had an opportunity to watch the film. Not that these plot points ruin the movie as such, but they do stop it from being what I would have liked to call ‘a great movie’.
Despite this flaw, Richard Shepard’s The Perfection is a grim tale of horror, deceit, revenge and retribution, all shrouded in a thin veil of mystery and suspense. It’s certainly been one of the better horror films I have watched recently.
The Perfection is currently streaming on Netflix.
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