Documentaries: Perfect (2016) - Reviewed

Josie reviews Perfect

Synchronized swimming is widely thought of as a joke sport, if it’s even deemed worthy enough to be considered a sport at all. In filmmaker Jérémie Battaglia’s 2016 documentary feature, Perfect, everything the audience thinks they know about the world of synchro, and its athletes, is turned on its head. In the film, which follows the 2016 Canadian National Team’s drive to the Rio Olympics, viewers are treated to every aspect of the underdog team’s preparation, from try-outs to competition, giving the sport a small bit of the recognition it deserves. With absolutely stunning underwater camera work and an unrelenting pace, any audience member who watches would be hard pressed to come away from the film without a better understanding of the fearless women who give their bodies and personal lives up to create something beautiful and perfect.

Candid one-on-one interviews with the members of the team present some really interesting questions: why is it that a sport that is unquestionably, unflinchingly brutal, as shown when the entire team tells of their countless major injuries, seen as a joke? Is it because the athletes who participate in the sport are required to wear big, expressive makeup and look pretty while they perform with giant grins and show faces? Or is it because synchro is a sport that belongs solely to women, and therefore it's immediately deemed lesser? It seems silly to think that wearing makeup would invalidate an athlete's prowess in the eyes of the audience, but when a closer look is taken, as it is in this film, what other reason is there?

Battaglia's cinematography does a phenomenal job of presenting the audience with the juxtaposition of the beauty of the women above the water as they perform with the controlled chaos and unbelievable athleticism taking place under the surface. This brilliant camera work and editing make the audience even more impressed with the swimmers featured here. Maintaining serenity and synchronicity above the water looks easy, until you see what's happening below.

Synchronized swimming is so much more than waterproof makeup sponsorships and girls swimming together looking pretty. Regardless of why some think it's not worthy of being an Olympic level sport, Perfect proves that these athletes are as deserving of recognition and respect as any other athletes. They devote their lives to the chase of perfection, and they train and work their bodies to the bone to be the best. If that isn't the definition of an athlete, then what is? 

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-Josie Stec