Rating: 3/4

Few films require a strict balancing act on the “spoiler” tightrope, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about The Perfection without revealing any one of the looping changes and chances it takes. Director Richard Shepard, creator of The Matador, crafts a twisting and unnerving film that once acts as a more demented version of Whiplash while combining body and revenge horror.

The film opens like Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, a dying mother lays decaying under the watchful eye of her daughter Charlotte. A formerly acclaimed cellist, Charlotte (Allison Williams) has spent several years caring for her recently deceased mother. Traveling to Shanghai, she reunites with her teacher Anton (Steven Weber) and his newly prized pupil Lizzie (Logan Browning).

Lizzie, ostensibly looking up to Charlotte, empathetically unites with her predecessor for a cross-country trip through China. The two are happy until Lizzie falls sick with an apparent contagion sweeping across the country. This rather simple set-up belies the nutty twists and turns that follow, running the gamut of psychological, body, and revenge horror where the next revelation claws at one’s sinews.

The Perfection‘s loops spool through the transaction between fame and bodily autonomy that women in a disturbing range of fields must contend with. Without divulging the film’s unrelenting and surprising turns, Lizzie and Charlotte relate together within a duality in this regard. Both have offered themselves to reach a pinnacle, relying on Anton and his assistant Paloma (Alaina Huffman). However, Anton shares a number of characteristics with Whiplash‘s domineering Fletcher. He expects perfection.

In totality, both Williams and Browning do offer perfection in their performances. Both actresses are a picture of duality, protecting their deeper motives through surface level emoting. Their nuanced performances arise through their subtle eyes and tumultuous emotions, especially during the body horror inflicted upon them. Anchored by Vanja Cernjul‘s cinematography, reliant on split diopter shots, The Perfection offers a surprising and disturbingly gory tale of trauma in relation to musical brilliance.

A Selection of the Chicago Critics Film Festival

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