Perfect: Review


Jeremie Battaglia’s debut documentary, Perfect, follows the Canadian synchronised swimming team over the course of a year leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics Qualifiers. Framing the beauty alongside the struggle, Battaglia portrays a hard life for the women of the team, as they strive for the perfection the sport demands.

A sport it most certainly is. It is clear from the off that synchronised swimming deserves to be seen at an Olympic level, a large proportion of the swimmers having had a background in gymnastics. Training is tougher than you might expect, the women pushing themselves to the limit despite frequent injuries. “A lot of the that work we do is from other sports,” one of the athletes summarises, “We run, we do gym work, ballet etcetera etcetera. But we do that as our warm up, to do our own sport.”.

Working as cinematographer as well as director, Battaglia captures the exquisite nature of each performance in wonderful slow motion. The unseen movements beneath the surface of the water are a particular highlight, delivered with a sense of awe that is hard not to share. Vincent Letellier’s score wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller, complimenting the tension arising in the training and held throughout the film. For this team, the sport, and winning, is everything.

Sadly, Battaglia’s film is a little too brief to give anything other than an introduction to the sport. Perfect mentions important issues the women face – issues that deserve further investigation – before brushing past them without too much thought. Body image problems and eating disorders are not given nearly enough time, but the worst is perhaps the institutionalised judge bias. Seemingly, teams are punished for showcasing diversity, forcing Canadians to tan to match the shade of their team member darkest in skin tone. Already at a disadvantage to Asian teams who groom their athletes from an early age, the women must work even harder for what is perhaps an unachievable goal. The piece offers no solution to this problem, though, and nor does it offer any hope of things changing for the better in the future.

Still, if all you are looking for is an introduction to a sport you don’t really know anything about, the piece will certainly suffice. Battaglia succeeds in portraying the Canadian team as classic underdogs, vying for glory against the robotic Chinese and Russian teams, and the creative Spanish and Italian athletes. Who doesn’t love an underdog? Taking his cue from Cool Runnings, Major League and a hundred other sports films, Battaglia skilfully manipulates us to wince at every sprain, and cheer for every dive, flip and coordinated handstand.

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