Coming-of-age, or merely films about growing up, are often incredibly tricky to pull off. Firstly, you need a script which is authentic, unique and avoids the obvious tropes and pitfalls of the genre. Most importantly, you need a young star who is both believable in the role and preferably not in their mid to late twenties. Lastly, there’s the supporting cast, which needs to enhance and anchor whilst avoiding stereotypes or sloppy caricatures. Eva Riley’s feature debut has it all.
Since the recent death of her mother, teenager Leigh (Frankie Box) has pretty much had to take care of herself. Living on the outskirts of Brighton, she has responded to her grief by throwing herself into gymnastics. She’s pretty good as well, but struggling to find the money to compete and ridiculed as a ‘charity case’ by other girls at the gym. Her father (William Ash), who is barely present at the best of times, is little help. Leigh’s world is turned upside down when Joe, the older brother (Alfie Deegan) she didn’t know she had, suddenly appears.
The reason why Perfect 10 works so well is a mix of an impressive debut performance from Box, some clever and assured direction from Riley and her script which tells a tale without trying too hard. Indeed, Leigh’s situation is easy to empathise with. There’s no need to throw in some huge ‘turning point’ or melodramatic device. Her story is just one amongst many, but isn’t any less powerful for being so. Perfect 10 is intelligent and subtle film-making.
Perfect 10 is out in cinemas an available on Curzon Home Cinema/BFI Player on 7 August.