A documentary about synchronised swimming is not how I thought I’d be spending one sunny Friday evening, but I’m glad I did.
Perfect follows the Canadian synchronised swimming team on their quest to reach Rio 2016. They have a number of championships between now and then, with teams they must beat to reach their goal.
First-time writer and director Jeremie Battaglia takes us to the depths of various pools and sets out to dispel some myths around this sport that is often met with derision.
Battaglia does a superb job in showing the hardships these women go through to reach the absolute peak in their profession. All of them put in hours, days, weeks, months and years of their lives to the sport, to reach perfection.
From countless hours in the gym, day-after-day, to acting classes, to creating a whole new routine in just six months, to going over and over the routine in the pool, the team leave nothing behind.
It’s also a surprisingly tough sport, one section sees them go through the injuries they’ve sustained over their careers, listing them like Jackie Chan might list the bones he’s broken.
At first, I was put-out that Battaglia hadn’t taken the opportunity to include more artistic shots, push the boat out, if you pardon the watery pun. Whilst there are a few, an upside down underwater shot of the team performing, a particular stand-out, there’s not as many as perhaps I was expecting.
However, on reflection, I think this is a good thing. There’s enough to show you Battaglia is more than capable as a director, but equally more than capable of knowing how to let the subjects, the core of the documentary, do the talking.
I found Perfect surprisingly moving too. All the women are just so damn nice. There was no nastiness, no backstabbing, no trying to out-do each other. They’re a team, they love being a team, in fact, they’re more like a family, they spend so much time together.
If I was to nit-pick and look for a flaw it’s that ending is rather abrupt, but then, the makers weren’t to know what would happen, so I guess they can’t be blamed.
It is a shame though that we miss the final performance. It kind of feels like you haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to the team, to this family, when Battaglia has done such a good job of ensuring you’re invested in them up to that point.
A documentary is only ever going to be as good as the subject you are documenting, sounds obvious. I imagine for many people; synchronised swimming wouldn’t be top of their list.
However, to discount Perfect because of its subject matter would be a mistake. It’s a wonderful documentary, crafted beautifully, that doesn’t have the ‘Hollywood’ ending many documentaries strive for, though this adds to the emotion.
As for the subject matter, well, I have complete respect for any athlete, for anyone who devotes so much of their lives to attain perfection, and I don’t find any difference with synchronised swimmers. In fact, if anything, I think they deserve more.